16 Jun 2009

Guam senator brings bill to hold referendum on cigarette tax

11:06 am on 16 June 2009

Guam's vice-speaker has introduced a measure to hold a referendum to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 50%.

The Pacific News Center reports that Senator Benjamin Cruz argues the tax increase is needed to discourage smoking because, he says, Guam has a chronic tobacco problem.

Guam has the highest rate of smoking with the United States, with 31 point one percent of the island's total population confirmed smokers.

Senator Cruz has cited statistics from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse which he says show that every day one person dies on Guam from tobacco abuse.

He says the tax increase on tobacco is needed to quell what he called the near-pandemic of tobacco illnesses.

The average cost of a cigarette pack in Guam is reported to currently be 1 US dollar.

The Bill would allow for island residents to vote on the tax increase via referendum during the next general election in November 2010.