Oklahoma attorney general responds in cigarette fee challenge

Posted on: 7/12/17

Last week, the Oklahoma attorney general (AG) filed his response on behalf of the State of Oklahoma in the cigarette fee challenge pending at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. SB 845, which imposes a $1.50 fee per pack on cigarettes, was challenged in June by tobacco wholesalers and others. The legislation is being challenged as a measure that raises revenue without adhering to the provisions in the Oklahoma Constitution.

The AG takes the position that SB 845 is not a revenue bill but is a regulatory fee with a regulatory purpose and is a legitimate exercise of the police power of the State. “While Petitioners claim that the Fee is ‘completely untethered from any regulatory aim’ they ignore the broadly accepted fact that such a fee is the single best smoking deterrent. Public and nonprofit health organizations throughout the State proposed the Fee on cigarette sales to reduce smoking and thereby improve public health.”

Tobacco contends that the fee is not spent on smoking related costs and is “wholly out of proportion to the expenses involved.” The AG responds that “the $200 million or so generated by the Fee is dwarfed by the $1.5 billion in annual costs on our society created by smoking.” To read the AG’s full response, click here.

Oral arguments in the case will be held Aug. 8 in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The fee is scheduled to go into effect about Aug. 25, so a court decision will likely occur before the fee is imposed. (Sandra Harrison)

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