When discussing the proposed huge hike in the tax on cigarettes, remember that a tax is a tax.
Backers of a plan to increase the cigarette tax by $2 a pack announced Monday they had enough signatures to qualify the proposal for the Nov. 8 ballot. Their argument is the same as ever. Raise the tax high enough so people won’t smoke, but yet people do continue to smoke. It is a feel-good measure, unless you smoke. “Tax the poor smokers and maybe they will quit” is a popular refrain with non-smokers. “We can use the money for research and anti-smoking campaigns” is also popular, yet all the tax increases across the nation — and there have been plenty on tobacco — have not resulted in a cure for cancer nor a significant reduction in smoking as promised by the campaigns.
Today, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes in the Golden State is about $5.50. That would jump to $7.50, or what officials said would cost an average smoker roughly $750 more a year, if the cigarette makers pass the increase along to consumers.
It would be nice to see everyone stop smoking because of the increase. However, what will happen to the many bureaucracies created from tobacco taxes if that money dries up. Will they just simply go away with the smoke, or will taxpayers (non-smokers) then be hit with other new taxes to make up the shortfall? We fear the latter. Sin taxes, as these are often called, are popular with those wanting tax increases because not everybody smokes or drinks and they are relatively easy to pass. They also sound good, but we know much of the money is siphoned off before actually accomplishing what is promised. Today, it’s cigarettes. Tomorrow it will be soda drinks, and alcohol cannot be far behind. Don’t be fooled by these measures. They are what they look — tax hikes.
— California’s Porterville Recorder