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The Associated Press July 1, 2010, 11:13AM ET

Hawaii cigarette tax hikes pack price by 40 cents

New cigarette taxes hitting Hawaii smokers Thursday make each pack cost 40 cents more, reaching an average of nearly $8.

The tax increase gives Hawaii the fourth-highest cigarette tax rates in the nation, at $3 per pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Only New York, Rhode Island and Washington tax cigarettes more.

"With all the compelling health reasons and with the cost of cigarettes getting even higher, now more than ever is the right time to quit," said Julian Lipsher, program manager of the Tobacco Prevention and Education Program at the state Department of Health.

The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Hawaii is $7.79 when the new tax is included.

The tax increase is expected to raise more than $20 million a year for the state government.

The cigarette tax is one of 60 new laws going into effect Thursday, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Other tax and fee hikes will result in higher prices for oil products, government documents and agriculture imports.

The cost of auto fuel is expected to go up by about 2.5 cents per gallon, and residential electricity bills will increase by 78 cents per month.

The oil products tax will be paid on every barrel of petroleum product, with the costs likely passed on to consumers. The law calls for the tax to increase from 5 cents to $1.05 per barrel, generating about $22 million for the state.

Traffic abstract fees are jumping from $7 to $20, bringing in about $6 million.

Fees for importing plants, microorganisms and non-domestic animals will increase for the first time since 1999, generating about $100,000 annually.

Additional tax and fee increases affect copies of vital statistics, large cigars and applicant fees for the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board.

Non-tax laws taking effect Thursday include:

- An allocation of money to prevent the continuation of Hawaii's teacher furloughs, which reduced last school year by 17 days. Gov. Linda Lingle plans to spend $57 million from a hurricane relief fund.

- A ban on the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins.

- A requirement that tax refunds to be sent to taxpayers within 90 days, or else the state would pay interest on delayed refunds.

- A prohibition on government seizure of legal firearms during an emergency.

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