I am a firm believer that big government is bad government. Bloated government often leads to oppressive over-taxation, which can stifle free enterprise, and creates a “nanny state” mentality, where the government, as a benevolent benefactor, can fix every ill in society.
With this said, however, I’ve always struggled with the justification of a low cigarette tax. Just this morning, I read an article in the Coeur d’ Alene Press where conservatives in the Idaho State legislature are against raising the 57 cent a pack tax on philosophical grounds. Challis Republican Rep. Lenore Barrett is quoted as saying that “what we’re doing is whipping on folks who are making stupid choices. They have a right to make those stupid choices.”
Now I agree with the good representative that individual liberty and choice is to be cherished and protected at all costs, but smoking affects more than just the health of the smoker and those who live with them. We all pay for the increased health care costs that smoking imposes on our society, by increased insurance premiums to direct out of pocket costs paid for medical care to lost worker productivity at the job site. A substantial cigarette tax seems to me to be a no-brainer. There is good evidence from other states that at least doubling the tax decreases the rate of smoking (currently at 16% in Idaho). The revenue raised should be specifically earmarked for tobacco education and prevention and to help pay for the increased medical costs that smokers incur.
Yeah, I know that it sounds like double-talk, but smoking makes a significant health and economic impact on our state. As a result, a substantial cigarette tax increase is one government initiative that I can fully support…..Richard R Samuel, MD Family Practice and Urgent Care Hayden, ID USA