Legislators approve cigarette tax increase

South Carolina senators could send Gov. Mark Sanford a 50-cent cigarette tax increase.

South Carolina senators have approved raising the nation's lowest cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack.

The 41-1 vote on Wednesday suggests there are enough votes to override Gov. Mark Sanford's threatened veto of the proposal.

The current tax of 7 cents a pack hasn't changed since 1977 when a pack cost 48 cents.

If Sanford's veto fails, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says Missouri's tax of 17 cents a pack would be the nation's lowest, while South Carolina's ranking would rise to 42nd.

The South Carolina legislation would generate about $125 million for Medicaid programs. It also would provide $5 million each for cancer research and efforts to cut down on smoking.

Sanford said he'd only agree to a cigarette tax increase if was used to offset some other tax.