Cigarette Wars at the Florida Capitol

Their names are different, Checkers, 305's, Chandlers. What they have in common is that they are off-brand, aren't mass marketed, and their manufacturers aren't part of the massive tobacco settlement.

Florida Senate President Jim King thinks that makes them fair game for coughing up 50 cents a pack to the state.

“They were not put in the pot initially because at the time they were very, very insignificant, less than two percent of the market, now they've got over 16 percent."

Some brands would be taxed, while others made by Liggett, the whistle blower in the tobacco lawsuit, would not.

The state’s only cigarette makers, Delsal Tobacco of Miami, says the inconsistencies would put them out of business.

Yolanda Nader is the President and C.E.O. of Delsal.

“Tax us all, but tax us equally. A settlement isn't a tax. The amounts that are being paid by these other companies do not represent a tax."

Adding 50 cents a pack or $5.00 a carton to low cost off-brands would put them at about $23.50 a carton, which still is about $10 less than name brand smokes.

Brown and Williamson lobbyist Mac Stipanovich says the 50-cent tax is all about fairness.

"It disadvantages the tobacco companies that do contribute and it costs the state we’re guessing between $80 and $100 million a year."

Even if the legislation gets to the governor, there's no guarantee he will sign it.

"My natural inclination is not to raise the taxes."

But the governor isn't ruling out the tax if it makes it to his desk, which means the some smokers may be coughing up more cash in the near future.


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