I won’t be voting for the $1- a-pack cigarette tax on the ballot in June. The money raised by this tax, assuming there would be enough cigarette smokers left to pay it, would be used to fund cancer studies, smoking-reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement, and I’m not against any of those things. But if I am in favor of those things, shouldn’t I be the one lining up to pay the tax to pay for them?
We’re already taxing smokers a lot, not only in California, but throughout the country. We collect these taxes in two ways — directly through the tax stamps affixed to packages of tobacco products and indirectly through tobacco-lawsuit settlement money. Smokers pay for all of that. If you buy a pack of cigarettes, you pay 87 cents in cigarette-specific taxes as well as the sales tax on that sale. The smoker’s share of the tobacco-lawsuit settlements is embedded in the pre-tax cost of the product, and is probably pretty close to the tax.
I’m not a smoker now, but I used to be. I smoked a pipe for many years. The tax on pipe tobacco is less than on cigarettes — about 75 cents. A pipe smoker uses less tobacco than a cigarette smoker, so the taxes are less of a factor in the cost. But one thinks about them nevertheless. And one pays them.
I know non-smokers believe smokers should be punished through taxes, but I’m not so sure of that. Smokers punish themselves. Unless they are morons, they realize cigarettes aren’t good for them. Cigarettes are harmful to their health, and make them smell.
If the programs for which the new cigarette tax would pay are such a good idea, let’s each pony up $400 a year — about what each smoker would pay — and get the programs off to a good start. You know how that would go over. Californians love to tax others, but not themselves.
Ganging up on smokers, or on any other class of people, is not the way to do that.