Local pols oppose tobacco tax hike
Mike Jacobs opposes Governor Blagojevich's proposal for a dramatic increase in state taxes on tobacco products saying, "The cigarette tax really seems like a regressive tax, especially to the 36th District, where people can just go across the river, said Sen. Mike Jacobs, a Democrat, "I think this cigarette tax is dead on arrival."
Of course, this ignores the fact that Iowa is poised to enact a huge increase in their cigarette tax as well that may make them more expensive to buy in Iowa.
Both Representatives Boland and Vershoore echo Jacobs' opposition.
Such taxes are rarely a good idea.
First, for people addicted to cigarettes, quitting can be as hard as a heroin addict kicking the habit. Continually jacking up the price of cigarettes causes few, if any, smokers to quit.
The tax rate on cigarettes is already many times higher than comparable taxes on alcohol, even though they're both supposedly sin taxes there to recoup the increased health care expenses incurred due to people that use them.
And smokers are predominantly lower income people, thus it affects these people disproportionately. And of course, lower income smokers don't have a very powerful lobby. Aside from the tobacco companies, there's no one to prevent the government digging into their pockets. They're an easy target, which legislators seem to love going after.
Then there's the libertarian angle to it which holds that the government should not try to regulate individual behavior by imposing excessive taxes.
And perhaps more importantly, prices can only be jacked up so high before it makes a black market profitable.
It's a thorny issue, but will likely be decided according to how effective the tobacco industry spreads their money around Springfield. I'm hoping Mike Jacobs' assessment of the proposal's chances is correct.