(CNSNews.com) - Two-thirds of Virginia voters would support a 60-cent per pack tax increase on cigarettes, according to a poll released Wednesday by a coalition of public health groups. Virginia hasn't increased its cigarette tax in more than 40 years.
The poll comes days after Democratic Gov. Mark Warner told legislators the state faced a severe budget crisis and services would have to be reduced to make ends meet.
The public health groups are using the poll's results to promote the idea of increasing the current 2.5-cent excise tax on cigarettes. A 60-cent increase might produce more than $318 million in revenues to reduce the $1.5 billion deficit, they say.
The Mason-Dixon poll surveyed 625 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. In addition to the 67 percent support statewide, the poll showed voters in all regions of the state backed a tax increase, with Northern Virginians topping out at 80 percent and those in the southwest part of the state at the low end with 51 percent.
Voters across party lines also supported the tax increase. Democrats made up 81 percent support, while Republicans registered at 61 percent and independents at 67 percent.
"These kinds of taxes are going to help people quit smoking," American Lung Association spokeswoman Donna Reynolds said.
But the idea of using a tax increase to make up a budget shortfall could have a negative impact on the state economy, warned Philip Morris spokesman Tom Ryan. The tobacco manufacturing giant is headquartered in Virginia.
"Excise taxes alone don't tell the full story when it comes to what the tobacco industry does in Virginia and the contributions the tobacco industry makes to the Virginia economy," Ryan said.
The American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association sponsored the poll.
See Earlier Story:
Higher Cigarette Taxes Even in Virginia?
E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.