YES to the cigarette tax..

Tonight a really good friend of mine post a blog titled The Cigarette Tax. He blogged about his disagreement with the proposed tax increase.  This blog will hopefully show him that he is on the wrong side of the issue.  He is a smoker, but hopefully he can look at this from a non-bias point of view.

His first reason:

Cigarette tax increases are regressive and hurt poor people…

He has it backwards: it is the harms from smoking that are regressive. Lower-income communities already suffer disproportionately from smoking-caused disease, disability, death, and costs. By prompting more lower-income smokers to quit and cut back, raising state cigarette tax rates will reduce those regressive harms and costs, directly helping lower-income smokers and also reducing smoking-caused costs and harms to their families.

His second reason:

The tax will hurt tobacco farmers…

Even eliminating all smoking in any particular state would have only a very minor impact on the overall demand for American-grown tobacco leaf – and proposed state cigarette tax increases will not (unfortunately) even reduce smoking by half. Overall, U.S. smoking accounts for less than half of the total demand for U.S. tobacco leaf, which is also smoked overseas in cigarettes that are exported or foreign-made. Accordingly, even very large smoking declines in any particular state will have only an imperceptible impact on the overall demand for American tobacco leaf.   (See fact sheet)
His third reason:
“Sin” taxes are wrong…

First, total state revenues from cigarette taxes are currently far less than conservative estimates of state smoking-caused costs. (see fact sheet).  Second, after any politically possible increase, the state cigarette tax per pack will still be far less than the state’s smoking-caused healthcare costs and related productivity losses per pack. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the national average is $10.28 per pack (and that total does not even include all smoking-caused productivity losses. (see fact sheet).  Third, to make the tax increases even more fair to smokers (and better for public health), the state should allocate a portion of the new tax revenues to initiate or expand programs to help adult and youth smokers quit (e.g., quitlines, public education, school-based programs, etc.). Doing that would cost no more than a few pennies per pack of the tax increase. And last but not least….  Smokers who do not want to pay the tax increase can quit smoking or cut back. While quitting is not easy, the whole point of cigarette tax increases from a public health perspective is to make smoking more expensive so that more current smokers will quit (and fewer kids will become new smokers). Moreover, as shown above, the economic and health benefits to each smoker who quits or cuts back (and to his or her family or household) is far greater than the increased costs to those who continue smoking as before.
The national average state excise tax is $1.34 per pack.  In South Carolina it is a whopping $0.07.  I would argue we should increase our tax $1.00.  This would prevent an estimated 46,700 kids from becoming smokers; spur an estimated 25,700 current adult smokers to quit;  save 21,700 residents for premature, smoking-caused deaths; and save an estimated $1.0 BILLION in health care cost for our state.
This $.50 tax increase is a no brainer.. and out of the $136 million that will be raised by this .50 increase, most of the money would go into a Medicaid trust fund, enabling the state to raise mor than $400 million through federal matching funds.  Another $5 million would go to smoking cessation programs, $5 million would be spent on cancer research, 2% of the money raised would pay for marketing of SC agricultural products, and $3.5 million would create a grand program for counties along Interstate 95.
In my opinion… Mark Sanford should let the Legislatures vote stand.. of course, when has Mark Sanford ever listened to the people or the Legislature in the past?

2 thoughts on “YES to the cigarette tax..

  1. I will post a rsponse tomorrow. I will, however, point out that my opinion was unbiased and I didn’t not discuss the impact this would have on me or my budget. I was not making the rather mundane “get out of my pocket you fat-cat government” point. I’m not convinced. Good blog!

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