LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Smokers and other tobacco users in Kentucky would pay $1 more per pack under legislation proposed by a Republican state senator ahead of the upcoming General Assembly.

The bill, pre-filed Thursday by Sen. Stephen Meredith of Leitchfield, earmarks 90 percent of those revenues to a newly created fund to reimburse the state’s Medicaid program for money spent on tobacco-related illnesses.

"It's been since 2009 when KY last had a cigarette tax increase. There have been efforts since then, but none of them have passed," said Meredith.

The remaining revenues would be sent to health departments in counties that have enacted smoking ordinances to fund tobacco-cessation programs.

The $1 increases also would apply to packages of chewing tobacco and tins of loose snuff. The legislation, however, does not appear to target electronic cigarettes.

Meredith, the retired CEO of the Twin lakes Regional Medical Center, emphasized in an interview with WDRB News last month that his bill wouldn’t be a tax increase. Indeed, the pre-filed measure calls the increase a “healthcare reimbursement assessment.”

“One of the things we can do to control costs is to make people accountable for their own health,” he said.

The bill does not include a provision Meredith was considering that would have added $1.50 per pack to the existing cigarette taxes in counties that don’t have smoking bans. That would have resulted in higher costs for smokers in the senator’s district southwest of Louisville.

Kentucky’s major business groups, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Greater Louisville Inc., have endorsed increased cigarette taxes and broader smoke-free laws. Both are part of the newly formed Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, which includes more than 100 organizations.

Kentucky’s adult smoking rate of 25 percent is the second-highest in the nation behind only neighboring West Virginia. Meanwhile, the 60-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes was last raised in 2009 and is lower than any adjoining states.

"Every surrounding state has a higher cigarette tax than we do. You can see directly that the smoking prevalence is lower in those states. So, that's more than a coincidence," Meredith said.

A $1 per-pack increase would generate more than $266 million for the state each year, according to estimates cited by the smoke-free coalition.

Here’s a link to the pre-filed bill:  http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/18RS/prefiled/BR224.htm

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.