How to Solve Ohio’s Budget Crisis—Soak the Poor!
(Cross-posted at Southeastern Ohio’s ONLY CPAC credentialed blog, Athens Runaway!)
According to the venerable Youngstown Vindicator , anti-tobacco lobbying groups are suggesting an unoriginal idea to help fill Ohio’s Strickland-induced budget crisis: raise taxes on tobacco by $1.
This tax increase, according to the American Lung Association, would raise $299.7 million in revenue. Surprisingly, the poll paid for by the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found that 64% of 808 Ohio voters supported raising the sin tax from $1.25 to $2.25.
Right now, Ohio has the 25th highest cigarette sin tax, and is just under the national average of $1.34.
Now, obviously smoking is bad for your health, and it’s an unhealthy habit, but people are in charge of their bodies, not the government. That’s basic conservatism right there—the individual knows what is better for him or her than the government.
By this point, there’s not a single person alive who doesn’t know that smoking is unhealthy, and it’s not like people are forced to smoke—they choose to, for whatever reason.
Also, an increase in the smoking sin tax would disproportionately affect Ohio’s impoverished, who aren’t exactly being helped already by the games that champion of the poor Ted Strickland has played and plays with the state’s tobacco education budget.
Anyway, not only are smoking bans and excise taxes the domain of nanny-state do-gooders, they have a bad habit of being backed up with lies and fraud.
In December, it was revealed that the forces behind the Ohio restaurant and bar smoking ban illegally used felons to gather signatures . On top of that, the Ohio Secretary of State somehow approved the petition to put the smoking ban initiative on the ballot before they received the petitions.
However, according to the Ohio Grocers’ Association , it’s not as simple as the nanny-staters say.
Tom Jackson, President and CEO of the OGA says that “any economist will tell you that it is impossible for a buck increase on a pack of cigarettes to generate $299 million in Ohio.”
Other states’ attempts to fill budgetary holes by soaking the poor aren’t encouraging, either. In New Jersey, the state actually lost $15 million by increasing the sin tax by 12.5 cents. In Maryland, another liberal state that did this, analysts saw a marked increase in black-market cigarette sales, which meant that retailers and small businesses took a big financial hit.
In short, smoking sucks. Don’t start it—and if you’re already a smoker, stop it. You’ll save money in the short-, medium-, and long-run. However, it’s not the government’s job to tell us what behaviors are good and which are bad.