SANTA FE ― Sen. Howie Morales (D-28-Catron, Grant, & Socorro) bill to increase the excise tax on cigarettes and tobacco products by $1.50 in New Mexico has passed the Senate Education Committee.
By a vote of 4-2 along partisan lines, the panel endorsed the measure that would generate $89 million more annually for public school classrooms in the state, and would keep over 11,000 children from starting smoking and get thousands of adults to cease smoking. Senators heard from many supporters of the legislation who packed the hearing room, including representatives of teachers and educators, schools and leading health advocates.
“We are grateful for the committee members’ support of SB 25 today. We will meet important objectives for our state by increasing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. We can substantially strengthen children’s classrooms, which have been hit with cuts worth tens of millions of dollars in the past decade. We will make sure that more than 11,000 kids in New Mexico never become smokers, get more than 10,000 current adult smokers to quit – significantly reducing overall health costs in our state. We cannot afford not to do it,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Howie Morales said.
The sole opponents of SB 25 heard in the hearing were lobbyists for Reynold & Altria Tobacco, the cigar association, and convenience stores. Supporters spoke of benefits for schools from added funding to be made available under the bill, and gripping personal accounts of losing family members to cancers and other fatal illnesses caused by smoking.
The measure next goes to the Senate Corporations Committee.