Boise Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk wants to charge all stores selling tobacco products $150 a year to cover the cost of checks to make sure they aren’t selling cigarettes to underage buyers. Currently, stores can get a free permit from the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) to sell tobacco products. Maintaining those permits and performing annual checks at every tobacco seller in the state costs DHW and the Idaho State Police (ISP) close to $300,000 a year.
Werk’s proposed fee on permits would cover those costs. “It’s only to recoup costs,” he said. “It’s not to be a profit center.” DHW would set the fee for tobacco stores, but said it should be about $150. Currently, money for the tobacco permits and store checks come from the general fund and the Idaho Millennium Fund. Werk said lawmakers should shift the burden onto stores. “I don’t believe that the taxpayers of the state should be picking up the cost of the annual permits or the inspections that are required,” he said. “Taxpayers are actually paying to support tobacco dealers.”
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved introducing the proposed fee. Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, opposed the plan because it may not apply to stores selling tobacco on Indian reservations. Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, also said he may oppose the plan in a full hearing because it could add another fee to convenience stores.
The committee also approved introducing Werk’s proposed ban on dissolvable tobacco. The new form of tobacco, which puts nicotine in flavored strips and mints, isn’t currently being marketed in Idaho, but Werk said ads he’s seen from other states target dissolvable tobacco to children, which could prove harmful. “They do deliver enough nicotine that it could be deadly, potentially, to very small children,” he said. The flavored dissolvable tobacco strips and pieces don't require spitting and product labels say they can cause mouth cancer. The proposal would allow people to buy dissolvable tobacco with a doctor’s prescription. The Joint Millennium Fund Committee endorsed the proposed ban during its meeting last week.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee will need to hear both of Werk’s proposals again before they can move forward.
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