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Maryland planning more stealth tax hikes on poor?

In a socially-acceptable way, of course: ie, via another hike in the tax on tobacco. The “Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative” – a name whose hint of subtle menace should make small-government types involuntarily shiver – looking to raise it by a buck a pack, because… well, pretty much because they want people to quit smoking, and taxing it through the ceiling is supposed to accomplish that. And it might… except for one minor little detail. You see, Maryland’s state sales tax on tobacco is currently two dollars; over in Virginia it’s thirty cents.

You do the math.

I mean, I know what the message is supposed to be here:

Continuing in his efforts to aggressively crackdown on cigarette smuggling tobacco tax evasion tactics, Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today that agents from his Field Enforcement Division confiscated more than 17,000 packs of the contraband cigarettes. In addition to seizing the approximately $103,000 worth of contraband cigarettes, Comptroller’s agents arrested four people in four separate cases within less than one week’s time.

…but the message that comes from reading this article is It’s really easy to smuggle cigarettes over the Maryland state border. Not that people should, because it’s illegal – but a buck-seventy differential is apparently one heck of an incentive for filling your car with Marlboro Lights and driving north.

For that matter, seventeen bucks per carton is probably enough of an incentive for people to just buy their smokes at handy Virginia locations. Not to mention other groceries, which means even less revenue for Maryland. And if you think that people in poor financial circumstances who are physically addicted to a highly addictive drug that does not impair their ability to reason cannot make this kind of elementary financial decision… congratulations! You have all the necessary qualifications one needs to be a Democratic member of the Maryland state legislature.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: Full disclosure: I used to smoke, and while I don’t have the usual disgusted seething hatred for smokers that is stereotypical for ex-smokers I still think people should quit. But I’m also a Maryland taxpayer, and I have a certain reluctance to see damfool notions passed that will subtly degrade the existing tax base, particularly if those damfool notions are being passed in the name of social engineering. I really wish that politicians would learn to do sums: the fiscal illiteracy ensconced in the threatened Maryland Amazon tax is quite bad enough…

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