If the governor's proposed tobacco tax increase is approved, Connecticut would have the second-highest rate in the country. But critics worry it would hit poor people hardest and not do enough to help them quit.
At $2.75 per pack, Connecticut's cigarette tax is already the tenth highest in the country. Governor Rell wants to raise it by a dollar. Democratic lawmakers also want it higher, but by a quarter less.
On WNPR's Where We Live, Rell's budget chief Robert Genuario said in times of economic upheaval, so-called sin taxes provide reliable revenue.
"The tobacco taxes and the alcohol taxes are amongst our most stable taxes. Much more stable than the income tax, corporate taxes and even the sales tax."
Unlike an income tax, though, where wealthier residents pay higher tax bills, cigarette taxes tend to hit low-income residents. Andrew Haile is a law professor at Elon University who has written about tobacco taxes' impact.
"We know from CDC studies that the majority of smokes come from households making less than 35-thousand dollars a year. This is not the latte crowd who is paying the cigarette tax primarily."
Public health advocates support raising the tobacco tax. But instead of just bringing the money in to fill the state's coffers, they want to see more dedicated to smoking prevention - especially for poorer residents.
Kevin O'Flaherty is the northeast advocacy director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"The sad thing is that Connecticut is only one of six states that provides no cessation coverage, tobacco cessation coverage, to its Medicaid recipients. Two or three of those six states do at least provide it for pregnant women, and Connecticut doesn't do that either."
How much to raise the tax is part of the ongoing budget negotiations between the governor and Democratic legislative leaders. Six weeks after the start of the fiscal year, they're still trying to craft a two-year plan to close a projected 8.5 billion dollar deficit.