You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Ohio to raise taxes on flavored cigars

The products are popular among youths and some don’t think higher tax will stop use.

Taxes are going up in Ohio on tobacco products such as flavored cigars and cigarillos and for the first time in years, state money will aid smoking prevention efforts.

The two-year state budget bill passed last month raises the tax only on little cigars, from 17 percent to 37 percent of the wholesale price beginning Oct. 1. Little cigars resemble cigarettes but are wrapped in brown paper that contains some tobacco leaf, sold individually or in packs and come in flavors such as grape and strawberry.

The tax hike is estimated to generate $5 million each year toward the state’s general revenue fund, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. An additional $5 million over two years has been set aside in the state budget to enforce Ohio’s smoke-free workplace law and boost prevention and cessation programs.

The state has not funded these efforts since 2008, when lawmakers and then-Gov. Ted Strickland gave up $18 billion in future payments from a multi-state settlement with tobacco companies in order to balance the budget in a recession year and build new schools.

Bruce Barcelo, healthy lifestyle manager for the Dayton-Montgomery Public Health District, said the tax increase should decrease usage among young and urban Ohioans who often use flavored tobacco products.

“We would like to see the equalization for all other products but certainly this is a good first step,” Barcelo said. “We know in the urban core that the mini cigars, or cigarillos, are one of the main ‘other tobacco’ products that are being consumed.”

But wholesalers and store owners worry sales will take a hit. Gregory Wellinghoff, owner of tobacco wholesaler Keilson Dayton Co., expects a 10 to 20 percent decline in sales on little cigars and fears the tax will encourage “trunk slammers” that sell tobacco products from states neighboring states such as Pennsylvania with lower taxes.

“The higher the tax, the more incentive for someone to find a way to not pay the tax and make extra profit as a result,” said Wellinghoff.

Wellinghoff said most consumers of little cigars fall in the mid-30s to mid-60s age range and many are middle- to lower-income people who can’t afford a pack of cigarettes but enjoy smoking.

About 14 percent of Ohio high school students reported smoking cigars or little cigars in the past month in a 2011 survey of youth health habits, compared to 21 percent who said they smoked cigarettes. Barcelo said the little cigars are attractive to smokers, in part, because they cost less than a pack of cigarettes.

“Of all populations, youth are very much price sensitive — every time that a tobacco product is increased, it impacts usage,” Barcelo said. If taxes on all non-cigarette products were raised to the same rates as cigarettes, Barcelo said, tobacco sales would generate $50 million a year.

The Montgomery County Juvenile Court received 145 referrals for tobacco related offenses in 2011. James Cole, the court’s administrator, said Black and Milds and other flavored cigars are common products of choice among young people.

“I don’t think the tax will influence the number of youth that will be cited. They’ll find a way even if there is a higher price on this product,” Cole said.

Cole said tobacco cessation programs through the court seem to help young people drop the habit more than raising the price of the product.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend tobacco tax increases, as well as smoke-free workplace laws and prevention programs to reduce smoking rates.

The new state budget directs money toward several areas including:

  • $1.5 million to support and encourage use of the state’s free quit hotline for pregnant women, Medicaid participants and uninsured Ohioans
  • $1.5 million to raise awareness and of Ohio’s workplace law and fund cessation and youth prevention programs
  • $1 million to help pregnant women quit smoking


Mandy Burketts of the Ohio Department of Health said the cessation and prevention money would likely flow to local health districts and other anti-tobacco coalitions already offering programs. When the state cut its funding, many local programs died and the few remaining are funded through local human services levies and partnerships with hospitals, schools and other organizations.

New money will be spent on enforcing the state’s smoke-free workplace law. More than 781,000 violations have been issued, on average, over the past four years, but less than 200,000 have been issued so far in 2013, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Burketts said Ohio’s tobacco use problem isn’t going away and most adult smokers began as youth. Ohioans between the ages of 18 and 34 have the highest smoking rates among adult age groups, according to the 2011 Ohio Risk Behavior Survey.

Elliot Leventhal, a 23-year-old Ohio State graduate from Dayton, smokes cigarettes but said a tax on little cigars makes sense as a luxury.

“People will still buy them at the same rate, and if the government can make money on this I want it to go to good causes,” Leventhal said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

ProPublica: Local drug maker’s opiate addiction shot becoming drug court standard
ProPublica: Local drug maker’s opiate addiction shot becoming drug court standard

Alkermes, a pharmaceutical manufacturer with a plant located in Wilmington, is the subject of an expose on over its anti-addiction drug Vivitrol.  According to author Alec MacGillis, Alkermes began aggressively marketing the drug and began aiming for federal and state funding, all while the drug became a popular staple...
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman a ‘no’ on Senate health care bill
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman a ‘no’ on Senate health care bill

Less than an hour after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would pull the Senate version of a bill to replace the 2010 health care bill known as Obamacare, Sen. Rob Portman announced his opposition to the current draft.  "I am committed to creating a better health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access...
Gov. John Kasich says current health care bill is ‘unacceptable’
Gov. John Kasich says current health care bill is ‘unacceptable’

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has urged Sen. Rob Portman not to accept “a few billion” to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic in exchange for drastic cuts to Medicaid, saying that the former would be “like spitting in the ocean.” Kasich, appearing in D.C. Tuesday for a press conference with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat...
Husted says he offers new vision for Ohio
Husted says he offers new vision for Ohio

The youngest contender in the Republican race for Ohio governor went straight to the age issue on Monday when asked about 70-year-old Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s decision to run in 2018. When asked about the newest addition to the race, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said, “‘New’ would not be the way to describe...
What people are saying about Mike DeWine’s run for governor
What people are saying about Mike DeWine’s run for governor

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Sunday that he will seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. He spoke as the DeWine Family Ice Cream Social. Here’s what some of the folks there had to say: “As far as his experience, as far as being able to address the needs of Ohio, everything from our children and education,...
More Stories