AUGUSTA (AP) – A coalition of Maine health groups is calling for higher cigarette taxes to help fund Dirigo and other public health programs.

The coalition representing cancer, lung and heart associations wants to raise the $2 per pack tax by a dollar.

The proposal comes up as the Legislature considers a bill to bolster Maine’s troubled Dirigo Health insurance program.

It calls for a 50-cent per pack increase in the cigarette excise tax.

Gov. John Baldacci supports the 50-cent tax hike, but its likelihood of passage is not guaranteed.

Critics say cigarette taxes are an unstable revenue source and that tax hikes hurt retailers, especially those in border areas.

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