The Louisiana Baptist Convention decided last week to withdraw its support for increasing the state tax on cigarettes to focus on what it said were more important social issues such as abortion and child-care regulations.

In March, the Baptists and other religious groups came out in favor of a plan to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by up to $1.36 from the current 36 cents to fund tobacco prevention and control programs and health care needs. The national average is $1.45 of state taxes per pack.

Rep. Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa, has filed HB 63, which would raise the tax by 70 cents, to $1.06. He said the increase would generate an additional $178 million a year. The bill will be considered when the Legislature convenes April 25.

Rev. John Yeats, director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, met recently with Timmy Teepel, chief of staff for Gov. Bobby Jindal, to discuss the governor’s opposition to tax increases to balance the state budget.

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