The cigar industry is preparing to fight a tobacco tax that health advocates hope to push through the General Assembly next year. The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, which represents thousands of mostly mom-and-pop cigar stres, said it is organizing in hopes of preventing the proposed tax on cigars and others tobacco products other than cigarettes from passing.

“Maryland voters are sick of increased taxes disguised to obscure government over-spending and they are tired of being told what to do and how to behave,” Bill Spann, CEO of the IPCPR said in a statement.

Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative is pushing for the the new tax. They successfully pushed dime-a-drink tax on alcohol through the last General Assembly session.

The group published a recent telephone poll of more than 800 people that found that two-thirds of Maryland voters supported a cigar tax. The group said the poll by Opinion Works also found that about 72 percent of Maryland voters like the idea of taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco at the same rate as cigarettes.

The group believes increasing the tax will cut consumption and fund health care programs, especially among youth who have adopted the use of cigars, especially flavored ones.

As of 2010, 15.2 percent of adults and 14.1 percent of high school students in Maryland were smokers.

The cigar stores say the argument by health advocates is a misguided effort to prevent underage smoking. Youth can’t afford cigars which cost $6 to $30 and they industry has strict policies against underage sales, Spann said.

He said a tax would hurt small businesses and kill jobs.