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Stamp Out Cigarette Taxes

The U.S. should repeal punitive cigarette taxes. They hurt poor and middle-class smokers more than they help the antismoking movement. Pro or con?

Update! Podcast: Hear a lively discussion as Gary Nolan and Eric Lindblom respond to your reader comments

Pro: Robin Hood in Reverse

Increased taxes on cigarettes may sound like a good idea, but in truth they devastate the poor, hurt local businesses, and result in diminishing returns.

Studies show that the poor are disproportionately more likely to smoke and bear the greater burden of higher cigarette taxes. Per pack, taxes range from 7 cents in South Carolina to $2.57 in New Jersey, in addition to the 39-cent federal tax and any taxes added by cities or counties.

In New York City, where cigarette taxes add up to $3.39 a pack, a family of four with an aftertax income of $18,000 per year and one smoker with a two-pack per day habit will lose more than 13% of its income to cigarette taxes. Perhaps such families’ money could be better spent on warm winter coats and boots for children, replacing worn-out tires for safer travel, or paying an overdue utility bill.

Local businesses, too, suffer as a result of cigarettes taxes. Due to a reduction in disposable income, community vendors and retailers will have fewer customers buying their goods, another straw on the camel’s back for an already stressed economy.

Rather than quitting, some smokers will cease buying cigarettes from their local convenience stores and smoke shops, opting to purchase them online or by mail from discount vendors. To satisfy the black market, crooked entrepreneurs will endanger everyone from store clerks to truck drivers in order to obtain enough cigarettes to satisfy their clientele.

If it is true, as studies indicate, that a 10% increase in cigarette tax results in 4% fewer smokers, it means that once those smokers quit, it will diminish tax revenues that state and federal governments have come to rely upon. To compensate for these diminishing returns, will a well-meaning government official decide to institute a tax on high-fat foods or whatever the next enemy du jour may be?

Con: A Strong Deterrent

Eliminating cigarette taxes in the U.S. would cut pack prices by an average of about $1.50. Such a sharp price drop would increase by at least 4 million the number of kids alive today who will grow up to become addicted smokers. With more new smokers and fewer quitters, adult smoking would also rise quickly. That means more smoking-related disease and disability and 2 million more deaths due to smoking over the next generation.

Cutting cigarette prices increases smoking most sharply among those with lower incomes. So poor and middle-income households would suffer the lion’s share of the new health problems and deaths caused by eliminating cigarette taxes. Indeed, smoking not only hurts and kills smokers but also endangers their families and friends via secondhand smoke. For just one horrible example, consider that more than 4,500 babies die each year from smoking-caused birth complications and sudden infant death syndrome. Abolishing cigarette taxes would double that toll.

The increase in the number of smokers that would come from eliminating cigarette taxes would also raise nationwide health costs by $90 billion over the next several decades. Smokers, on average, die earlier, but they still have much higher lifetime health costs. That means bigger burdens on governments, businesses, and households, especially lower-income families with no health insurance. The higher smoking levels among lower-income and other households would increase their spending on a range of other smoking-related costs as well.

Revoking all cigarette taxes would also reduce annual government revenues by more than $20 billion, prompting major increases to other taxes or drastic cuts to federal, state, and local programs that benefit low- and middle-income families.

Rather than repeal cigarette taxes, we should raise them. The science is clear: Increasing cigarette taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking and its many dangers and costs, especially among youth and lower income families.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek.com Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

Ricky Bobby

I think the taxes should be reversed now. Why do smokers have to pay a tax when 90% of it funds public services for illegal immigrants and others without insurance? Why are smokers financially penalized so people who should not be in this country can get free services? Other parts of the taxes go toward obesity programs. This makes no sense. If they can afford to feed their fat faces, why are cigarettes being taxed to assist their poor-health-because-you're-too-fat services?


The main idea behind the increase in cigarette taxes is not related to a decreasing number of people smoking but rather reducing the gap between low-priced and high-priced cigarette brands. Therefore, cigarette companies make more money than they used to, and the government collects more taxes than it used to.


Are you kidding? The nicotine content in all tobacco products should be managed by the FDA. Tax, tax, and tax again all tobacco products.


So according to Eric, and all the other anti-smoking nazis, the government should keep on taxing cigarettes and even raise taxes on cigarettes in an attempt to deter people from smoking, because people who smoke might get cancer or some other "smoking-related" disease, which will cost the government money. According to that logic, we should tax the sex act because it may result in an unwanted pregnancy, which would probably result in a taxpayer-funded abortion.

Kyle Morley

A slam dunk for Mr. Lindblom. But then there are really no arguments for the other side unless you believe our government should subsidize the smoking habit for poor people. I don't even think a liberal bleeding heart like Hillary would say that. Because that's what lower cigarette prices would do--the money from cigarette taxes doesn't even pay for what smoking costs the government in increased health-care costs, etc. Shouldn't people be responsible for paying for their vices?


If you can afford to buy a dope stick, you're not poor. Just another overused politically correct phrase, "da poor," to bring emotion into a logical discussion. Next, you'll use "da children."


Well, why not increase the tax on all beer and liquor? We sure have to pay for that expense in health and hospital stays. Let the drinkers pay as well. After all, it's their livers, rehab/detox, and injuries to others, and we as taxpayers have the burden of paying for their treatment. If the government could find a way to tax weed and profit from it, it would be done--believe that.


A new Dutch study suggests that smokers are economically cheaper than nonsmokers in terms of health-care costs, so the financial costs argument is highly debatable. Also, the government's role is not to dictate the health choices of its citizenry, and to attempt to justify taxes based on that argument is absurd. Taxing cigarettes makes money--it is no more complicated than that. There are not any other motivations. Everything else is just spin.


Joe is right in one respect; it is about the money. Other studies have shown that the money saved in Social Security benefits "not paid" to people who die early from cancer more than off-set any added costs of health care. But let's not get caught up in any dubious statistics. The fact is that there are people who just plain hate smoking and smokers and want smoking banned altogether. They are buoyed by many well-intentioned people who honestly feel they have the right or obligation to interfere in the lives of those (the nanny state mentality) who are "harming" themselves by smoking. No one really knows how many people die from smoking each year. The often-cited "435,000 Americans die from smoking related illnesses each year" statistic is only a computer-generated number, and no one is even sure where the stats that were fed into the computer came from. Pick up the book Slow Burn: The Great American Antismoking Scam by Don Oakley. Get educated.


Extreme behaviors are a self-correcting problem. Taxing them to death is simply penalty in lieu of criminalization. And in the case of tobacco and drugs, they are regressive taxes of the worst kind. Simply put, the government is spending too much time and effort social-engineering the population, and usually it is the poor people who suffer. Government backs the "feel-good" cure of the day, while they never get to the root problems.

People should be allowed their vices.


Ricky, Bobby, and a few others, I agree with your posts.

I live in the UK. I rarely buy any cigarettes from the UK, though. I would rather go on lots of short haul flights to Spain, Greece, etc., and buy them from there. What we pay in the UK amounts to extortion. Then they say they do not want to treat us, after we have put $8 billion or $9 billion into the NHS. This country loses billions from many others who go on short haul flights doing the same. It also creates a black market. Nobody minds paying a fair tax, but not when it reaches extortion. Social engineering is not healthy either; it makes people like me at 52 start to rebel.

See forces.org and freedom2choose.info for tolerant nonsmokers and smokers alike who have had enough of these antis. We do not all want to live on anti-depressants, thanks.
The drug companies seem to be running the show at the moment.

Barclay Reynolds

If not mistaken, you just reported that unhealthy people cost less for heath care then the healthy! I do not smoke, so it is a matter of government taxing everything "groups" want taxed that bothers me. Maybe the Europeans have it right with a VAT tax? Cost high, pay high. I just do not like government saying (taxing) "that's not good for you, so pay for your sins."


A very simple solution to the smoking tax. If you don't like it, quit smoking. Smoking endangers the innocent lives of those around the smoker. Therefore since smokers add to the dangers of society, I have no issue at all with adding a higher societal cost to their disgusting products.


Has anybody actually seen where the money taken as a tax is actually spent? Every time some officials need to raise revenue, they advertise "the dreadful costs related to smoking" or "we are doing it to benefit the children."

Yet year after year, they use the same tactics to raise taxes and the problems seem to never go away.These taxes are never dedicated to where they have been advertised. It's a great trick, because there are always more people who don't smoke, who will always vote for the tax.

Has anybody ever considered why government employees pay income tax when their income is a result of money that was arrived at by taxing somebody else? Wow--that's a clever way to tax the same dollar twice. By the way, I don't smoke.

Dr. Serendipitous

Cigarette taxes are meant to be punitive taxes. If smokers don't get the point that cigarette taxes are designed to impoverish them, they deserve to be impoverished.

Dunno Much

You need math to figure this one out. Because it goes to the heart of one of the frequent tripping-points of economic debates. What's effect, what's cause, and in a dynamic setting, what can have how much effect? If taxes on cigarettes are increased, prices of cigarettes will rise, profits of cigarette manufacturers will plummet, consumption of cigarette will decrease, fewer kids will be able to afford cigarettes and become addicted in the first place, those who smoke cigarettes will lose, the overall state of health of the economy will improve, the long-term strain on the American health-care system will decrease, the money available from the tax will reduce the fiscal deficit, those who work in cigarette companies will lose jobs, they will spend less in the rest of the economy; however, this is unlikely to drag the economy down because they are so few, some will join welfare and increase the strain on the federal budget. So, what we need is a Harvard/MIT type telling us whether the addition to the welfare rolls will wash out the effect of the increased revenue. If the study finds that it does, that will become the foremost example of modern-day economic sophistry. A Harvard/MIT type also needs to tell us if the angst caused to the stockholders of cigarette companies, however quantified, will exceed the benefits accruing to society from a healthier populace. Again, the analysts need to work back from the obvious conclusion in this case also--that, rather than greed masquerading as objectivity, would have a most salubrious effect on this particular economic debate.

Let's not mix up the passive smoking debate with this tax debate. Passive smoking is about legal frameworks; taxes are about incentives and prices and revenues. Taxes will determine how much smoking is done; legal frameworks will determine where smokers can smoke.

Next we need to discuss what happens if the tax is increased to some ridiculous level, like 1000%. Then cigarettes will become pretty-nigh unaffordable, and the entire cigarette industry will come to a crashing halt. However desirable this outcome might be in the long run, care must be taken to ensure that it doesn't happen in an abrupt manner, lest it cause massive disruptions in the rest of the economy.

It looks like to calculate how much labor cigarette companies will shed for a particular tax rate increase on cigarettes is a pretty-nigh impossible task for the conscientious economist. For that would require access to secret company information that only the management is privy to. They can go by history, but every moment economic reality re-creates itself so that extrapolating from historical data is fraught with dangers. No cigarette company is what it was 20 years ago. After all, cigarette companies are composed of people, both employees and management, and mankind itself is undergoing a slow process of education and transformation whereby old problems are looked at through the lenses of new paradigms. In fact, 20 years is even long enough to cause major convulsions in our way of apprehending and processing reality, socio-economic or otherwise. Also, how will the economist separate out the effect of the tax cuts, as opposed to say oil price increase, or supply-side effects? Clearly, lacking clear statistical clues, he will be helpless in his quest to quantify the important trade-offs. And, at the end of the day, what's left of economic debates but an understanding of the relevant trade-offs?

So, in the absence of academic direction, what is human society to do? Should it take refuge in such comforting dictums as "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? Or "Even if it is broke, don't fix it because you might make it worse"? Should we stare helplessly while greedy profiteers steer our country toward social ruination? In the absence of solid economic proof either way, isn't it more prudent to err on the side of caution? But wait, what did I just say? Which is the side of caution here? Is it the option that throws thousands of cigarette company employees out of a job, and makes them the plaything of economic vicissitudes? Or is it the option that makes millions of kids addicted to a ruinous substance? The members of this forum must decide if there is sufficient justification for action either way.


I think the government should eliminate the tax on cigarettes and just give them out free to all the smokers. This will allow them to smoke themselves to death, thereby ridding us of all these stupid jerks.


Taxes on cigarettes? Bring them on, and keep them coming. Sin taxes--it's one of the good thangs. Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that feller smoking behind that tree.

Ca Ching!


No one is standing next to you, holding a gun to your head, forcing you to smoke. If you don't like the taxes on cigarettes, then don't buy them. Stop blaming a system for running your pockets dry because of your choices and your habits.

Take responsibility for your own life and your own bank account--rich or poor, you have the ability to make your own choices.


It's simple. If the government doesn't tax cigarettes, then it's going to have to get the money from somewhere. I say that they should tax luxuries before necessities, and on top of that, unhealthy luxuries. I don't care if the person next to me smokes, because as long as they're doing it, that's tax money that I don't have to pay on gas and other things that everyone needs. So I say keep the tax and even raise it. As long as I don't have to pay the money, it's OK with me. Oh, and the statement that it hurts the poor is bull. I've seen people without a job buy cigarettes. If they are so expensive, then they are just going to have to go without this luxury, and if the price of cigarettes keeps a family from affording proper clothing, then those are just bad parents hands down. Hey, the truth hurts sometimes.


My family owns a tobacco shop, and I feel that the local governments can tax all they want. These taxes are nothing more than a fad. We have already seen the rate of tax increases dwindle. People are finally realizing that when each tax hike is instituted, a new brand of cigarettes pops up that is dirt cheap, and smokers will buy that.

Brand loyalty died years ago. This is shown by Philip Morris (Marlboro, Basic, Virginia Slim brands), which has had an average decline of 6% to 7% each year in cigarette sales.

No matter how much the taxes rise, smokers will smoke.


Nonsmokers, your agreements are flawed.
1.) Taxation on cigarettes does not deter smoking, at all. I have bought cigarettes when I couldn't afford anything better than pasta for food. A smoker will continue smoking until they want to quit. It is an addiction. There is no forcing them to quit; all you're doing is making it harder for them to quit because now they have the added stress of shelling out more money for their daily habit, and stress will make a smoker continue to smoke. You have to want to quit, through and through, to quit successfully, and if knowing the damage to your health doesn't do that, do you really think levying a heavier tax will?

2.) Smoking damages health, but there are about a billion other things that cause the diseases prevalent from smoking such as cancer or heart problems. How many times have you been notified on the news of another possible cause of these diseases? For me, more than I can possibly count. Stress, cooking oils--I mean there are a number of possibilities. If this is truly your logic, then how about raising the tax on a McDonald's burger to $2. Or shelling out an extra $3 every time you buy a bottle of alcohol? I didn't think so.

3.) Smokers have rights, just like anyone of you. I respect yours when I walk away, because I'm smoking a cigarette and I figure the passerby is not a smoker. I don't smoke in public places, mainly because you forced me not to, but also because I believe that you, as a nonsmoker, have the right to breathe in clean air. As such, I believe you should respect my right to smoke in my house or car. Those things don't affect you, so why do you feel the need to tax me further? So that you can pay for your needs and luxuries? How is that fair? Apparently you all want to be on some form of welfare program. Go figure, Americans wanting a hand out, what a shocker.

In the end, all I ask is to stop being treated like some minority that can legally be discriminated against. I respect you. Shouldn't you return the favor?


If they are poor, they shouldn't be wasting their money smoking in the first place. If they are middle class and educated, they should know better.


I agree that the sin tax is meant to be revenue-producing, not corrective. If Ohio meant to keep people from smoking, why did they spend the tobacco settlement on anything but? If the state was serious about reducing smoking, they could raise the tobacco tax and earmark all of the tax for medicines like Chantix. Give the medicines out for free to anyone who asks. That way anyone who wanted to quit could.


Well, yes, I would agree with Squeezebox; the free-medicine incentive and maybe lowered costs of going to rehab would decrease the number of smokers. In the longer run, the increase in taxes should decrease the number of smokers, but come to think of it, if money was all that much a hurdle in buying cigarettes, why still is this habit more commonly prevailing in the lower and middle classes?


@Taxdatotherguy said it best.

Why stop at cigarettes? Let's bring 'em on. SUV tax, energy tax, fat tax, salt tax, snack tax, beer tax, land tax, house tax--who needs these products? If you think you do, pay the tax. If you use too much, use less and pay less tax.


So you hate smokers and want to try to make it so they can't afford to buy cigarettes? OK then, I hate fat people. Yeah, I went there. And since the majority of this country's obese are a direct result of eating too much fast food, it's only fair that we tax the blue-blazes out of McDonald's Big Macs. Let's make them...how about $20 each? The same for every other fast food food item on the market at every drive-through in the nation, no exceptions.

All of these reasons listed above are still applicable; it would force the gluttonous to stop eating fast food, therefore putting an end to obesity and relieving the country's health system of all of the costs of providing health care for them.

What? That wouldn't stop the problem you say? That would be unfair since they "need" to eat? How would they pay for their other necessities if they were forced to pay so much for their choice of foods? Hmm...


Taxes don't bother anyone unless they have to pay them. Let's throw a tax on coffee, that's bad for you. How about an engine emissions tax, carbon monoxide isn't good for you. I got one, how about a fatso tax? If you're fat, that's not good for you. It's funny how so many people have no problem with a group being taxed as long as it's not coming out of their personal pocket. Keep in mind that today it's tobacco, tomorrow something else, and eventually it's going to be something that hits your wallet and you'll be crying foul. It will be too late. Mark my words.

Ricky Bobby

Instead of taxing cigarettes to pay for services for illegal aliens, the government would make a lot more money fining the companies that hire them. You'd think this would be easier, but more people hate smokers than criminals, especially when they "work hard." Also, I second fining fat people.


The real problem here is wasteful spending by the government. Our government keeps getting bigger and bigger and needs an increased amount of revenue to fund it. This bureaucracy is also constantly inventing new ways to increase spending on everything from the war in Iraq to programs that only benefit special interests. The short-term solution has been to raise taxes on minority groups like smokers. Over the long term as spending continues to rise, this will not be a viable option. The government will have to raise taxes across the board. The U.S. government is very good at not living within its means. This is why it has racked up a $13 trillion deficit that eventually the American public will have to pay back in the form of increased taxes. The baby boomer generation that created this mess will pass on the majority of this burden to their children. I believe it is time the American people speak up against wasteful spending. If the taxpayers were directly feeling the cost of the Iraq war and it wasn't merely ballooning our deficit, we would have already ended the war. I don't smoke but find some of these comments toward smokers very rude and uncompassionate. These people need to wake up and see that smokers cannot bear the burden of higher taxes by the government every time it wants to increase spending; it is simply not feasible. There are simply to few smokers, and their numbers decline with each increase in taxes. As their numbers decline, these taxes will be passed on to nonsmokers.

Ricky Bobby

For every $5,000 in cigarette tax revenues the countries collect, just $1 is spent on anti-tobacco enforcement. Where's the $4,999 go? Also, according to W.H.O.: Tobacco taxes around the world collect more than $200 billion, but governments spend less than one fifth of 1% of that revenue on tobacco control and prevention. Wow, one fifth of 1%.


Raise taxes on cigarettes to help pay for the ills caused by the cigs? Real smart? Taxes should be lowered so that more people will smoke and die, resulting in fewer people drawing Social Security till they are 90 to 100 years old.


I'm glad that the government isn't spending money on antismoking ads. I think that everyone who is old enough to know what a cigarette is knows that they are bad for you, so why waste time and money on telling the public what they already know? Spend the tax on something useful.

I totally agree with fat tax. Maybe not taxing people for actually being fat, but put taxes on fast food and junk food. If this stuff isn't cheap anymore, then only dummies would buy it. That's the whole point of fast food. Cheap crappy food. Also we could give tax breaks to people who make healthy choices such as: buying healthy food and owning gym memberships. It's not a perfect plan, but it's a start.

I smoke obviously

Dunno much: You would also need an economist to determine the effect on the value of our dollar if we were to eliminate one of our few remaining manufactured goods. You need to bring in the economic effect to the suppliers of tobacco, the filler used in the blends, the paper used, the cardboard used, the foil, the cotton, and cork filters, most of which is manufactured here. Eliminating the demand of all of these manufactured products would have detrimental effects on our already rapidly declining dollar. We are more than service-heavy already. As the dollar weakens in value, so will demand, stocks, bonds, foreign investment, and economic manufacturing data.

And while all of you antismokers say tax on, I would bet more than 50% of you are invested in Philip Morris or Reynolds. They have provided market returns far superior to most Blue Chip stocks. If you have a DPS, 401, IRA where you do not select your investments or if you select any large cap fund, you have made money from Philip Morris. If you invested in any major indices including the Dow, Wilshire, etc., you did in Philip Morris. Additionally tobacco generates roughly 90 billion of income for the government on a yearly basis. Way more than any antismoker could slant increased Medicaid costs on a yearly basis. Not to mention the economic benefit of paying tens of thousands of employees and suppliers with money generated from growing tobacco out of the ground. Maybe you even work for one of the suppliers or supply the industry's suppliers. Either way a majority of people receive a direct economic benefit from the tobacco industry. While everyone receives benefits in the form of over-taxation of the minority, the fact is tobacco-financed loans from the French helped finance the American Revolution, and tobacco was our first major agricultural export. So celebrate the freedoms tobacco has created in this country by eliminating the freedoms to use it.

If you antismokers were so infallible, you'd refuse to invest in large caps that included Philip Morris, RJR, etc. You'd refuse to supply anyone who supplied the industry, and you'd certainly never supply them directly. Your investment in the industry generates more cash that can be used to "promote" cigarettes. Directly increasing the smoking your increased tax is used to deter. You should be taking your dividends and capital gains and donating to smoking cessation programs or tobacco-use prevention organizations. But of course, you won't because that is your money you "earned." While you promote increasing taxes so you can take money from others that actually earned it through hard work.

Millions of kids do not smoke, and the tobacco industry certainly does not force the ones who smoke to do so. No effort is aimed to get kids to smoke. In fact, billions are invested by the tobacco industry to fund Youth Smoking Prevention through signage, training, penalties to retailers who do sell to minors, advertising, and direct investment. Continue to use emotional arguments in a logical debate, though. It always shows how weak your position truly is. That and the constant use of lame clichés.

Steven: The FDA does regulate nicotine and tar levels in cigarettes. They determine that X amount of nicotine and X amount of tar is an ultra-light, light, or full-flavor cigarette. They gave the industry the levels of classification. The industry needs to take out nicotine, which is naturally in tobacco leaves, and always will.


The U.S. places taxes on cigarettes because they're trying to keep the country more healthy, not to make the brands more fair, you genius. If anything, we'll see it raised and raised again--as it should be. Why would the government reward people for getting lung cancer and creating a burden on the health-care system?


While you're at it, tax Oreos and potato chips and beer and everything else that is unhealthy. Cigarette tax is just another get rich quick popular scheme of our beloved government. When the tobacco industry had to pay out the omega billions a few years back, not a dime went toward helping nicotine addicts. Why? Where did the states spend this money? Yeah, right. There are drug, alcohol, and methadone clinics to help, but where is the help for nicotine addicts? Where?


This isn't about taxes or even health; it's about smoking and people who don't like it. Truth is that smokers are not hurting anyone but themselves, and for those of you who think they are, take a hard look at the data relative to secondhand smoke. The science behind the argument was intentionally manipulated until weak cause and effect was "proved." Anti-s, you are being misled and lied to. I'd have more respect for you if you just admitted that your crusade is to stop other people from doing something you find objectionable.

In case you're interested, the cost of cigarettes is not a driving force for most people who choose to smoke or to continue smoking. It won't matter how much they're taxed; people will pay. As in the UK, enterprising individuals in the U.S. will develop ways (i.e., "black market") to get affordable cigarettes to the people who want them. And, consider the cost of alternative nicotine delivery systems and anti-depressants: Are they more or less affordable for those who are trying to quit smoking? Are the benevolent drug companies and our government working toward providing them at a reasonable cost?

Smokers are also not more expensive in terms of health care. They actually cost less because they die faster. Consider this, an overweight diabetic can drain the system of millions of dollars as we treat the physiologic results of his or her compulsion to eat. I'm not too worried that the zealots will let that continue, though, because heavy people are their next targets. You overweight people had better jump on your treadmills, because you are in their cross hairs and they are coming for you next. Perhaps a weigh-in as you come through the door of a restaurant?

This argument basically boils down to one of personal freedom--the rights of some to take the right to do as they choose from others, the rights of the businessman to choose what happens in his business, and the rights of the government to legislate and manipulate legal behaviors (and smoking is still legal, yes?) through taxation or law.


I am a regular smoker, and I do not have a problem supporting these taxes. The truth is that smoking leads to a litany of other problems that have to be borne by all taxpayers. Plus, a lot of people quit smoking due to the prohibitive cost of cigarettes.

Having said that, I'd like to point out that obesity is also a major cause of health issues and obese people need to pay for their indulgence. Unless you can link obesity to psychological issues, policies like extra payments for airline seats of passengers above a certain weight threshold also need to be incorporated into daily life. One man or woman's indulgence should not be another person's problem.


Hey Vince,
For your sake, I hope there is never a moron tax. You would go broke trying to pay it. Anyway, time to rise above that pathetic level of ignorance in which he resides. If you are going to tax one group, then spread the love. I'm sure the government can find a way to put a tax on just about anything, so for all of those saying to tax those smokers, watch out, because it could very well be you next. The sad part is that instead of uniting against any tax of this nature, we do just like the government wants: We divide into groups, which will conquer us all in the end. Oh, and we will still be paying taxes.

Jim Stoner

Bravo for McCombs at University of Texas Austin (Feb. 14 article "Saying No to Tobacco Money")--the right decision for the right reasons.
Jim Stoner
Fordham GBA


I help people quit tobacco. Many are motivated by health, their families, and saving money. I think we should raise taxes to pay for more education campaigns and cessation programs. And that includes taxes on all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. Nicotine levels should be lowered to make it easier for people to quit. When I see people's lives changed by kicking tobacco and how much better they are living, it inspires me.


@Bernice, 90% of today's taxes on cigarettes do not go toward smoking programs. A majority of the 90% goes toward the health services of illegal aliens and their illegal children. Another part of the tax goes to the health services of the obese. Instead of increasing the tax, don't you think 100% should be applied to smoking programs? They pay the tax, not the illegals or the obese, unless of course, they are smokers, too.


OK, fine, let's get ride of all taxes in America. I have a big problem with that. The cigarette tax is on a nonessential product, like a boat, TV, or Hummer. I personally do not care what they spend it on.

Fine, they are spending it on "illegal aliens." That is not the fault of the tax; that is an immigration problem.

If you do not want to pay this tax, do not buy cigarettes.

If the United States government were to remove this tax, would it make the smokers happy? Sure it would, but then the American government would stipulate that any smoker could not be part of the "united health insurance plan," and then the smokers would be unhappy again. They have the right to be part of the program, too.

The right: A smoker has the right to smoke as long as it does not infringe on another person's right to breath clean air. A smoker has the right not to buy cigarettes--and not paying this tax. This is all a matter of personal choice. Roe v. Wade, here we come. That was not about abortion, but personal rights. Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States of America does it say, "You have personal rights."

I believe the cigarette tax should stay, but I would still like to know more about the Mexican-American War tax everyone still pays with every phone bill.

Robert Steele

Government needs to lower taxes on cigarettes period.

It's all a big conspiracy so the big pharmaceutical companies and the government can make more money on the "golden goose," tobacco. They know it, and so should everyone else. Take the time to do the research before you blindly follow the crowd and yell put more tax on it because it's bad for you and we know best.

Fed up

You non-smoking liberals irritate the heck out of me. You justify everything as long as it doesn't affect you personally.

How about this line of thinking: Taxes should be equal across the board. No product should be taxed higher than another, period.

If you think smoking is criminal, then outlaw it. It worked for alcohol back in the 1930s, didn't it? But you won't because you like the money being taken from someone else's pocket to satisfy your do-gooder feelings.

I am tired of the tax slavery thinking that seems to have no end in sight. I put the excessive tax rate on cigarettes and alcohol in the same catogory as the following bad laws on the books:
1. Helmet laws
2. Seat belt laws

It's time for another revolution in this country. Give me liberty or give me death.

M. Marcotte

If we can't overtax the poor and the middle class, who's left?


Let the idiots who smoke kill themselves as quickly and as cheaply as they want. That's Darwinism in action before your very eyes.

George M.

Tobacco and alcohol are recreational drugs. Their deleterious effect on our nation's health is well documented.

The cost is not only related to individual health problems, but drugs also affect our economy across a broad social spectrum.

I agree with those who say tax, tax, tax.

And while we're at it, we should nationalize the illegal drug industry and make all "recreational" drugs free to the consumer.

In addition to removing the profit motive from crime syndication, the government could then regulate the manufacturing and distribution of these drugs, regulate consumption, and administer the rehabilitation process.

It would eliminate almost all of drug related crime overnight.It would be cost effective by a ratio of better than 100 to 1. Think about it.

Luca Giacomelli- ITALY

I don't think that increasing taxes on cigarettes is a deterrent against smoking. Those who smoke now will not give up smoking even after an increase in the price of cigarettes.

I was a smoker and the psychological element is the most important in the choice of whether to smoke or not. Smoking is a social disease.


Hey folks, it's not fair to label non-smokers as "liberals." That doesn't help anything. It's still a matter of choice. If you have to smoke, go ahead. Just please don't smoke where I am forced to participate.

30years2packs aday

Double the tax and use it to pay for the medical bills that smokers are going to pass on to the non-smokers. The rest of the tax can go to other poor groups.

Drug addiction is just that--an addication--and nicotine addiction is the worst.

Legal Alien

The biggest culprits of pollution are the trucks and SUVs that Americans love to drive. Tax the SUVs and increase petrol prices to international levels. People in Europe and Asia pay as much as twice what you guys pay here for petrol.

Americans still live the life of astonishing affluence.

Leave the poor smokers alone.


Tax, tax, tax and tax again on all cigarettes. Have no doubt about it, cigarettes cause cancer to the user and anyone standing too close.


A tax on cigarettes, I don't have a problem with, but Bernice, I have a problem with your tax all tobacco products. I enjoy an occasional cigar, and I don't mean the cheap grocery store brands. I may go several weeks between, or have two a week as the mood hits. Cigarettes are just too damn easy to light up, where a good cigar is almost a planned event, like sitting and enjoying a glass of good wine, or a special meal. Addiction is the key, and I totally agree that cigarettes are just too easy to become addicted to.

But others have pointed out that other items are addicting and still get a free ride. The same goes with arguments about health costs. If tobacco is taxed to reduce health costs, then everything else (alcohol, fattening food) should be taxed as well. And stop picking on just McDonald's. Let's add Krispy Creme/donut brands, every type of ice cream, etc. and put a tax on all dessert items on menus while we're at it. Let's stop practicing hypocrisy for once in this country. That would be the most refreshing change.


The government--state and federal--are always looking for ways to tax us.


If health were the real motivating factor, then cigarettes would be relatively low priority. Obese/overweight people outnumber smokers, yet there's no 'fat tax'. Stress is the main cause of heart problems, so how about a 'stress tax' for employers that demand overtime, for offices with crappy hours, telemarketers, the people who knock on your door to ask if you've found Jesus, and so on.

Health of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke? Outside? Want to compare the 'emission' of a cigarette to that of a car? Should all pedestrians revolt that they're being killed by second-hand car fumes?

There might be some good points in both the pro and the con stand, but the whole issue is a bunch of hot air.

"Panem et circenses", though less & less panem the way the economy is going - all these blown out proportion causes serve to keep people on relatively pointless crusades while the real problems remain unchallenged.

War? A slipping democracy? Economic regression? Slanted media? It's moronic that some dude having a smoke on the street evokes more outrage then anything that might be of real consequence.


Maybe we should all see tobacco-related cancer, emphysema, and heart disease terminal wards before we sound off.

Jocelyn Gallant

Smokers should not be forced to pay more for their cigarettes. That is a personal choice. Smokers have been punished enough. Give me a break--no more tax hikes on cigarettes. We want to be left alone.
Thank you.

Jocelyn Gallant
Salem, New Hampshire


Every overweight person in the country should fear any tax on cigarettes, because after the government is finished with its social engineering project on tobacco, it'll be coming after you. If you keep up with the news, you might have already noticed the rumblings.


People who think the government is worried about your health by taxing cigarettes must be smoking something else. It is all about money and power.

While some make the obvious connection to the tax revenue, it is also about the power. Liberals are control freaks. They just love regulating things. By doing so, they create a vast bureaucracy that furthers their power and employs more and more of them in useless government jobs.

Wake up, people. What they want to regulate and/or tax next may be something you hold dear.
--A Nonsmoker

wyoming bound

Instead of trying to tell us how to live our lives, government should regulate certain industries, i.e., investments and banking, so taxpayers do not have to bear the cost of bailing private investment houses out of trouble because of their "incompetent business expertise."

Let's not try to compensate for budget deficit by taxing smokers, and let's stop trying to tell us what to do. We already have mothers. When we need advice, we will ask for it.


I smoke, and I don't have a problem paying any taxes, but since some people on here seem to think they walk around on a higher level than smokers, and I'm sure if we did add a fat tax, stupidity tax, and ego tax, they would all be whining. And as far as hurting innocent people around them, when was the last time you drank and drove home, rode someone's bumper on the freeway, or had unprotected sex? Bunch of morons, they all need something to whine about. If it's not one thing, they will just find another. The world would be better if all the Nazis and tree huggers were stuck on an island by themselves somewhere.


Smoking is not a necessity. It adds a huge burden to the medical system, with cancer and emphysema costs. People shouldn't be smoking for the simple fact that they are destroying their bodies (anyone who denies this needs a head exam). I feel that paying these additional medical costs is ridiculous, just like I would object to sky divers adding costs to the system. Pay for your own stupidity. Not to mention, if I get cancer from second-hand smoke, they should be footing my bill. If the poor want to smoke, that is their stupid mistake. Take some responsibility and quit expecting others to cover your mistakes. If anything, smoke taxes should double or triple than they are now.

Charles W. F. Reese

There is no conspiracy. People who smoke need to remember no one forced you to make the decision to start smoking.

However, I would disagree with part of what Gary said in his article. (Good article by the way.) Just because you are poor does not mean you are going to smoke. (This is stereotyping.) I am currently working on my Master's in health management, and in our economics class we discussed this same issue. However, my peers and I came to the conclusion that the more educated you are the less likely you are going to smoke. Now being educated does not necessarily mean you need to go to college. Educated means you read a ton of books and you obtain as much information about a certain subject. The argument then would be, what if you can't read? I would say, have someone read to you.

I have also learned, as pointed out by Gary, that no matter how much you tax cigarettes, smokers are going to find a way to satisfy their cravings.

My advice to all is to never start or even experiment with smoking cigarettes.

Alan B.

Conversely, we shouldn't reduce taxes or even eliminate taxes on tobacco. Tobacco brings in millions-billions of dollars of revenue to the government; reducing taxes would raise other taxes. And let's please not place the blame on illegals. That's an easy cop-out for any debate. Keeping up the taxes on tobacco products would rake in more revenue (and bring us out of the recession, probably) but also it would cause those who can't afford it to quit (or steal, but that's a whole different ballgame). It would encourage quitting all around. Besides, tobacco should be illegal anyway. It's worse of a drug that any of the black market narcotics and illegal drugs (once again, different debate).

Bob Edwards

Forget smoking. Overweight people cost all of us far more:
1) More weight on the highway, road destruction, and more gas consumption.
2) Airline tickets. I weigh 150,so why does my ticket cost the same as you weighing 300?
3) Automobile accidents. It will take 3 people to pick you up at 200-plus. Most EMTs could put me on their shoulder.
4) You use more food, water, sewerage, and toilet paper. (environmental disaster on feet.)
5) Clothes. You use more material, again. More sweatshops, higher freight costs for shipping to stores.
6) Health Insurance. My policy costs the same as someone who's 250-plus. Why? I'm 100 pounds lighter than you.

So here it is: I want all of us charged by weight. Insurance car, and health. Car registration, by weight of owner. Airline tickets, by weight. Restaurants and buffets by weight. Ambulances should charge by weight (or they could sue you for throwing their backs out.)

And finally: When you die, charge that burial by weight. All that obesity (fat molecules) is ground pollution. Can't wait to call the EPA; they're gonna love that idea.

Nikolas diamondidis

Taxes on cigarettes and alcohol are nothing short of criminal actions perpetrated by federal, state, and local government.

I have an 88-year-old friend who lives on a small fixed income. She smokes an average of a pack of cigarettes each day. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how much the government punishes her with an abusive tax on her smokes.

I feel that the government should be sued by every smoker to be refunded every tax dollar they spent over the past 20 years. Do you know of any good lawyers who are up to that task?



The truth is, scientists tried pumping a full carton of cigarettes a day into rats through tubes inserted in the rats' lungs, and none of those rats could develop any tumors whatsoever. However the non-risked rats were able to develop tumors quite easily. Hmmm. Something in tobacco smoke is actually healthy for you. It is proven by the American Cancer Society in the 60's and the 80's. They also said that the amount of second hand smoke that a cocktail server endures in an 8 hour shift equals smoking a full pack of cigarettes, while also stating that tobacco is more addictive to heroin. Then they stated that evidently the cocktail servers who were non-smokers weren't exposed to a high enough amount of the tobacco smoke to get them addicted. If they are taking in a pack a day in second hand smoke, and they aren't getting addicted to something more addictive than heroin, then what they are saying is that this whole tobacco smoke/second hand smoke phobia is based on doctored test results and propaganda and lies. Is anybody really buying this anymore? My grandfather smoked and inhaled over 8 to 10 cigars a day for over 50 years, and when he died of colon cancer, my grandmother asked if during the autopsy they would open his lungs and look to see the condition they were in. They were a nice shade of purple and absolutely healthy. Smoking is not as bad for you as everyone claims it is. I have talked to 90 year old people that smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, and they say it's all a bunch of B.S.
I agree with them. Search the internet for the inconclusive smoking studies of the 1960's and 1980's and you will see what I am talking about. The same amount of smokers or less are dying right along with non-smokers for the same types of things, and most studies suggest that less smokers die from lung cancer than non-smokers. Think that is a lie? Look it up for yourself.

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