Massachusetts to help cigarette sales in New Hampshire
More fuzzy logic on excise tax increases will send smokers over the border
By David Williams, Editor
Once again, a state government finds itself is a squeeze for money – this time, Massachusetts. And once again, the state brings up the time-twisted argument that hiking the state’s cigarette tax is the way to solve the money problems and to curb smoking.
This is more illogical thinking from the industry leaders in illogical thinking.
The legislators of Massachusetts – specifically, Speaker of the House Salvatore F. DiMasi – wants to increase the state excise tax on cigarettes by another dollar a pack. Currently it is at $1.51 a pack – the 11th highest state cigarette tax in the country. Passing this currently proposed hike would make the fourth time in 15 years that smokers in Massachusetts took a hit in the wallet for smoking in their home state. Massachusetts would become the country’s No. 2 ranked state in cigarette taxes – second to New Jersey by one penny.
A recent commentary in the Springfield Republican said that the money from the new tax – estimated at $152 million a year - will go to assist paying on the governor’s health care reforms. They also say that another tax hike will encourage people to quit.
I have to ask all these people so hell-bent on increasing the costs of using a legal product why their logic is be as contrary as two mules pulling a plow in opposite directions.
Claim number one - we need money, so let’s raise taxes on smokers. Claim number two - we need smokers to quit and help reduce health care costs. If raising the taxes on smokers makes people quit, where is all this badly-needed tax money going to come from? From the people who aren’t smoking any more?
Speaking of great logic, figure this one out, from the same commentary in the Republican – “If fewer and fewer people are scared away from smoking because of the high cost of a pack of cigarettes, the cost of health care could eventually come down as smoking-related illnesses such as emphysema, lung cancer and heart disease decline.”
Uh, excuse me? If fewer people quit, the cost of health care goes down because smoking-related illnesses decline? Really?
Now tell me the one about the Three Bears.
I would have more respect for these people if they just come out and admit their agenda – they know very well that a certain portion of the smoking public will not quit, and they can tax them to death without paying a political price for it.
If this goes through, a pack of smokes in Massachusetts is estimated to cost $6.36 a pack. Over in New Hampshire – where the taxes on smokes are 80 cents a pack – it costs about $3.36 a pack to buy cigarettes.
This is what smokers will do if this hike passes. It takes an a hour and a half at the most to drive from the southernmost point in Massachusetts to any point in New Hampshire and buy smokes legally – at three dollars a pack less. The savings from two cartons of cigarettes – 60 dollars – is more than the gas it costs to drive there.
And the tax profits will go to New Hampshire, not to the money-hungry politicians in Massachusetts whose boneheaded decision started the idea in the first place.
It could be worse than that. Take a look across the border in Canada, where high taxation on cigarettes has fueled a black market that is literally causing a crime wave in Ontario.
This new health initiative is not going to get smaller over time. It will grow. And the revenue stream on which it is being funded – cigarette excise taxes – is shrinking as people quit.
The lost money needed to fund the program’s growth will come from the pockets of smokers and non-smokers alike as new taxes are proposed to replace that lost tax money.
A coalition of New-York-based health advocates and anti-smoking groups have just announced a campaign aimed at doubling New York’s cigarette excise tax on cigarettes increasing the rate to $3 a pack. New York City already does that by charging $1.50 in municipal excise taxes, so if this passes, smoking in the Big Apple will cost $4.50 a pack in taxes alone.
I am telling you, I need to invest in a string of convenience stores in New Hampshire.