Marlboro’s owners negotiated Colorado’s proposed tobacco tax hike — and it could help them dominate the cigarette market
The maker of Marlboro cigarettes spent more than $16 million to block a tobacco tax increase in Colorado four years ago. Now it could benefit from the passage of a question on the November ballot that would dramatically increase the price of cigarettes — a question the company helped write.
The company, Altria, was part of the negotiations that led to 11th-hour legislation — House Bill 1427 — that placed the question on the 2020 ballot. If passed, it will raise taxes on nicotine products across the board over the next several years, including more than tripling the taxes on a pack of cigarettes.
The question also would require retailers in Colorado to sell cigarettes for a minimum of $7 a pack, or $70 a carton, starting in January. Then, in 2024, that price-floor mandate rises to $7.50 a pack and $75 a carton.
The discount tobacco company Liggett Group, which makes the cigarette brands Pyramid and Grand Prix, is slated to contend the change will give Altria a major sales advantage and wipe away its market share.
If all cigarettes cost the same, the lure of discount cigarette brands, like those made by Liggett, would fade. After long battling against tobacco tax increases in Colorado, this year Altria is neutral, the company says. It hired lobbyists from the powerful firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to work on the legislation.
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