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Lawmakers reduce cigar tax cut and send bill to the House floor

Wyoming State Legislature

The Wyoming Legislature's House Revenue Committee advanced a bill that would cut the tax on premium cigars in half.

In Wyoming, premium cigars are currently taxed at 20 percent. So if you're buying a $10 cigar, you would pay $2 in state taxes. But lawmakers brought a bill this session that would greatly reduce that tax and cap it at 30 cents per cigar. So for that same $10 cigar, you'd be paying 30 cents instead of $2.

That bill advanced all the way through the Senate, and it came before the House Revenue Committee Tues. Feb. 7. The committee amended the bill several times, got rid of the 30 cents figure, and eventually landed on a 10 percent tax for premium cigars, bringing it down from the current 20 percent.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) led the push to name a percentage rather than a specific number like 30 cents.

"Putting a price point in our taxation statutes has historically been a no-no," he said. "If you look at our taxations, they're always based on percentages because over time, (there's) inflation."

Tobacco and cigar industry representatives said a tax cut would make local stores more competitive with online sellers, who are already taxed at 10 percent.

"It would put Wyoming small businesses on fair footing with our largest competition, which is not each other; it's the internet," Casper Cigar Company Owner Donovan Short said. "Most internet sellers in cigars are based in tax-friendly states, and by a large multiple, they are the number one seller of cigars in Wyoming."

But representatives from heart and cancer associations warned lawmakers that a tax cut of any amount would increase use, and make it easier for younger smokers to develop a habit.

"According to the Wyoming Department of Health, tobacco use in Wyoming alone claims approximately 800 lives each year and creates nearly $240 million in annual healthcare costs," said Liz Albers of the American Heart Association.

The bill advanced with a unanimous vote and now heads to the House floor.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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