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WV cigarette tax under scrutiny; researchers push for increase at State Capitol

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West Virginia's cigarette tax is under scrutiny from researchers and medical professionals who are pushing for an increase.

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia released a study saying that two out of three West Virginians favor increasing the cigarette tax by $1, bringing the total to $1.55.

The group claims the increase could help the state's economy and reduce tobacco use.

At the current rate of 55 cents per pack, West Virginia's cigarettes are among the cheapest in the nation. If it went up by $1, Kentucky, whose rate is 60 cent per pack, could benefit. "It'd be hard not to grin, sitting here in Kentucky because we used to have quite a few West Virginia customers, and I can almost guarantee you we'd get quite a few of those West Virginia customers back," said Rick Brislin at the First Stop in Ashland, Kentucky.

The coalition also claims a $1 increase to the tax would generate more than $100 million a year for West Virginia.

During Tuesday's news conference at the State Capitol, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia said higher prices keep young people from picking up the habit. "Well, the pros are - is it will save lives. By increasing the price of the product, we will see far fewer kids starting. 21,000 kids who are alive today will not become smokers because of this," said Chuck Hamsher, the director of Advocacy for AHA.

The move comes just a week after a study from West Virginia University suggested that 43 percent of state residents support an increase of $2 per pack.