Aspen City Council OKs ballot question that would tax cigarettes $3 a pack | VailDaily.com

Aspen City Council OKs ballot question that would tax cigarettes $3 a pack

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council, at a special meeting Tuesday, signed off on the language of a November ballot question that will ask voters to approve taxes on both cigarettes and tobacco products.

The city's electorate will be asked to bless a $3 tax on a pack of cigarettes, with the tax rising 10 cents annually until the price reaches $4. The same ballot question will ask voters to OK a 40 percent hike on all other tobacco products — from cigars to dip — along with e-cigs.

The new taxes, noted Councilman Adam Frisch, "100 percent have to do with a healthier community and it's not a money grab, and it's not an expansion-of-government grab."

Tax collections, expected to be $325,000 annually, would be dedicated to the city's general fund. However, the general fund would have a special line item for all tobacco tax revenue to be used for health and human services and education campaigns to curb the use of tobacco and other harmful substances.

If approved, the tobacco taxes would take effect Jan. 1. That's also the day the city's legislation raising the tobacco purchase price from 18 to 21 years old takes effect.

The City Council earlier this year unanimously passed that law, making Aspen the state's first government entity to raise the purchase age.

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By doing so, it surrendered an estimated $75,000 in annual tobacco tax revenue it collects from the state, prompting the city to eye ways to shore up the deficit.

Councilman Bert Myrin suggested the council ask voters to approve a percentage-based tax on cigarettes, rather than a fixed dollar amount. His reasoning was that a percentage tax would address the present value of money as opposed to a fixed amount.

City officials, however, said that would be more burdensome to administrate.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Tobacco tax question

The following is the direct ballot language for the city’s proposed cigarette and tobacco taxes that will Aspen voters will decide upon in November. Tax ballot questions are in all-caps.

SHALL CITY TAXES BE INCREASED BY UP TO $325,000 IN 2018 AND BY SUCH AMOUNTS AS MAY BE GENERATED ANNUALLY THEREAFTER BY THE IMPOSITION OF NEW TAXES AS FOLLOWS:

BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2018, THERE SHALL BE A NEW TAX OF FIFTEEN CENTS PER CIGARETTE OR THREE DOLLARS PER PACK OF TWENTY CIGARETTES SOLD PROVIDED THAT SUCH TAX SHALL INCREASE BY AN EQUAL AMOUNT ANNUALLY THEREAFTER FOR TEN YEARS UNTIL THE TAX IS TWENTY CENTS PER CIGARETTE OR FOUR DOLLARS PER PACK OF TWENTY CIGARETTES;

BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2018, THERE SHALL BE A NEW SALES TAX OF 40% ON THE SALES PRICE OF ALL OTHER TOBACCO PRODUCTS;

THE TERMS “CIGARETTES” AND “TOBACCO PRODUCTS” HAVE THE SAME MEANINGS AS IN SECTION 13.25.020 OF THE ASPEN MUNICIPAL CODE;

THE TAX REVENUES SHALL BE USED FOR THE SPECIFIC PURPOSES OF FINANCING HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, TOBACCO RELATED HEALTH ISSUES, AND ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE EDUCATION AND MITIGATION;

AND THAT THE CITY MAY COLLECT, RETAIN AND EXPEND ALL OF THE REVENUES OF SUCH TAXES AND THE EARNINGS THEREON, NOTWITHSTANDING THE LIMITATIONS OF ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION OR ANY OTHER LAW?

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