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Letter: Cigarette taxes slippery slope

November 30, 2018

Regarding last week’s editorial, [Cigarette-tax hike is an easy call, Nov. 23], I do not agree.

The facts you cite are generated by anti-smoking forces, government “experts” and an army of determined PR firms. How does Kevin Brinegar of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce come up with a 10-year, $7.6 billion figure informing us of what the medical costs of cigarette smokers cost each year in health care, productivity losses and premature deaths.

Let’s look at the facts. Indiana has 6,663,280 citizens; 1,400,000 are adult smokers. Half of those people (700,000) are fully employed and covered by workplace laws. So, these workplace laws are insignificant. Smokers pay $1 state tax and $2 federal tax per pack. On top of that, their insurance is $5,000 more per year than nonsmokers. Smokers are a net generator of tax revenue. Premature deaths save the government money.

Last year, Indiana collected $568 million in tobacco settlement payments and taxes, or about $6 billion in taxes over 10 years. Yet the state only spent $7.5 million per year on education and prevention efforts. Tripling the tax on a pack of cigarettes and giving it to Legislators and administrators is folly. It just gives them more money to waste. The cigarette tax is highly regressive, hitting the poor more than others. Sixty-one percent of smokers make less than $25,000 per year. Who’s going to buy all those lottery tickets?

Diabetes, obesity and drinking account for a large percentage of premature deaths. Let’s tax people $5,000 for being 10 percent over their advised BMI. Let’s double the tax on beer and spirits. Let’s tax fast food eaters 40 percent of their meal ticket. Let’s charge speeders for exceeding the speed limit by 10 percent per $500 infraction. Cigarette taxes are only the beginning.

Steven Pettinga

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