It seems like every year that there is a state legislator screaming for a cigarette tax hike, doesn’t it? This time it is Senator Julian Carroll who is pressing Governor Beshear to increase taxes on cigarettes by the pack up to $1.
…because that just makes sense right? I mean…
- choosing a completely arbitrary product to raise taxes on is reasonable
- it is a fantastic way to raise revenue for a state that is experiencing significant debt problems
- raising taxes has the added benefit of incentivizing smokers to quit smoking
- PLUS smokers and their health problems drive up costs for a society which foots their medical bills
The fact is, cigarette taxes across the nation are in a downtrend because they are not effective. The Tax Foundation identified this specificlly as one of their 10 recent tax trends:
The reality is that most states support cigarette tax increases because they want more revenue. This is precisely why huge cigarette taxes are poor tax policy: allowing the majority to shift the costs of government programs onto the minority can result in instability as citizens demand more government than they are willing to pay for. Popular, expensive, broadly available public programs should be paid for with broad-based taxes.
Raising taxes on cigarettes to boost revenue IS a poor tax policy. Even the argument that smokers need to be taxed more to carry their end of the bill for health costs is refuted:
Cigarette tax increases are often justified as a way of compensating society for costs imposed by smokers. A series of studies, however, argue that nearly all the costs of smoking—health care, higher insurance premiums, lower productivity at work—are borne by smokers themselves.
The General Assembly needs to address pension reform, right-to-work laws and prevailing wage in the 2013 session and let go of its obsession with taxing smokers. Kentuckians want to see their representatives focus on REAL solutions to REAL problems.