Pick life and taxes, not death and taxes

Despite widespread belief, Maine is not the highest taxed state in the nation, but it’s close. So talking about raising taxes here doesn’t seem to make sense. Except that, when it comes to raising taxes on cigarettes, the result is healthier people. Healthier Mainers.

That’s worth raising taxes for.

We fully support a $1 increase in Maine’s cigarette tax, not because it will raise money and ease the state budget deficit, but because it will save lives.

Maine used to have the highest cigarette tax in the nation, but it has slipped in recent years as other states have added what can only be described as punitive taxes designed to curb smoking.

Raising the price of cigarettes has been proven to reduce smoking, especially among young people. We can thank taxes for that.

According to the Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine, cigarette sales are down significantly since 1997, when 101.1 packs per capita were sold in Maine. In 2006, that figure had dropped to 64.8 packs per person. That’s real progress, and a good portion of that progress has resulted from raising the tax on packs.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, if we raise the tax $1 per pack:

• 8,500 fewer children will become smokers;

• 4,600 current adult smokers will quit;

• 3,900 Mainers will not die from smoking-related causes;

• Maine will save $192.5 million in health care costs; and

• Maine will realize $26.2 million more in annual revenue to fund health care.

Mainers now pay $2 in state tax for every pack sold, the same paid in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan and Washington, D.C. Eight states levy more than $2.

New Yorkers pay $2.75 a pack, Hawaiians pay $2.60, Vermonters pay $2.24 and, in Wisconsin, the state tax is $2.52. The smoking rate for each of these states is less than in Maine because an increasing number of smokers are unwilling to pay the higher per-pack cost, and kick the habit.

Rhode Islanders pay the most taxes — $3.46 a pack — which includes a $1 hike enacted last year.

If Maine increases its cigarette tax $1 a pack, raising it to $3, we’re still behind Rhode Island.

What’s interesting about the climbing state tax in Rhode Island is the resulting decrease in smoking.

In 1998, when cigarette taxes among states were more equal, 22.4 percent of Mainers smoked, compared to 22.7 percent of Rhode Islanders. Equal taxes and pretty equal smoking rates.

As Maine’s tax rate increased, its smoking rate declined, with 20.1 percent of Mainers smoking in 2007. Rhode Island’s tax rate climbed higher, and its smoking rate decreased faster, with only 17 percent of Ocean Staters smoking in 2007.

It’s a fine example of cause and effect; raise taxes and cigarette use declines. It’s about life — not death — and taxes.

This year, in Maine, 2,200 people will die from cigarette use. Maybe, in future years, fewer people will die if we make cigarettes more expensive to buy. One extra dollar per pack can and will save lives.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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Comments

GARY SAVARD's picture

If the rationale  here is to

If the rationale  here is to raise taxes on tobacco as a way to promote better health, then  the discussion should include alcohol, fast food,  fried any food, and just about anything else that causes potential health problems. Let's pick on smokers is getting really f'n old!

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

"Maine is not the highest

"Maine is not the highest taxed state in the nation, but it’s close" In an otherwise, factual and important editorial this sentence sticks out as very wrong out-of-date idea and perpetuates the myth that Maine is highly taxed.

The Tax Foundation (a right wing organizations which uses its tax burden ratings to justify its policy choices) has written that Maine is 2nd in the nation a few years ago. Then they admitted that their method miscalculated the tax burden and they changed Maine from 2nd to 15th. Then Maine cut its budget and harmed its citizens in so doing on the wrong assumption that we were highly taxed. By last year Maine had fallen to 22th. Since then 35 states have raised taxes and fees some very significantly. Maine will surely fall once again probably to the mid-30's. Even this is wrong. The Tax Foundation pro-rates taxes paid in other states for commodity production based on commodity usage. So Maine gets charged with taxes paid in Alaska for oil produced in Alaska under Alaska state law disproportionately because we are a cold winter state. Remove this and Maine will fall to the low 40's.

Maine is no where near to the top in tax burden. 

RONALD RIML's picture

    John - Ever stop to think

 

 

John -

Ever stop to think why Utah would only have a 9.2% smoking rate?

Consider the Mormon Church rather than taxes.........

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Ok by using your method of

Ok by using your method of reasoning. During the prohibition years no one drank alcohol. There were no taxes paid on it so everyone must have stopped drinking. Well we all know this was not true, don't we.  That said do I think smoking is a good thing for people to do, of course not. Will it help kids keep from starting , that's up in the air. Those of us that are of retirement age rememder when schools had desoignated smoking areas t obe used during recess, and lunch periods. Yes you read it right. At the old ELHS it was the side of the building closest to the Village Inn. When we moved up ont othe hilll it was the area next to tthe automotive shop. Yes youngun's we were permitted to smoke on school grounds, teachers had a smoking lounge in the building. In our day if you didn't smoke you were an outsider. Something like non drug users are today. everyone smoked it was the in thing. When I entered the service to serve my country a carton of smokes was one dollar. That's right a dime a pack. in the service we didn't get breaks  they were smoke em if you got them breaks. C rations contained a pack of 4 cigarettes in them. Thats right paid for by the government that now thinks it is such a bad habit. Was it good for us, of course not but you had to do it to be in the in crowd. Unfortunatly some of us got really hooked. Sort of like all of you that have to have a drink or two every day, or a joint or what ever your habit is.  Would i like to quit of course I would, and have tried many times. Would there be an increase in the murder rate if I did . Most likely the answer is yes until I were caught.

If it were easy to quit everyone would have quit when the price went ot a dollar a pack. Some people are truly addicted. It is our drug of choice.

It is time for all of you to remember sooner or later a do gooder group is going t oattack your vice.

JUDY MEYER's picture
staff

According to Orzechowski and

According to Orzechowski and Walker, The Tax Burden on Tobacco report of 2006, when Maine raised its cigarette tax in 1991, 1997, 2001 and again in 2005, NH's per capita sales actually decreased. When NH raised its taxes in 1991 and 2005, sales also dropped. Oddly, when Massachusetts raised its taxes in 1992, 1996 and 2001 the sales in NH went up, so there may be a cross-border problem in Massachusetts, but there doesn't appear to be the same problem with Maine.

RONALD RIML's picture

  northwoods: smoking is a

 

northwoods:

smoking is a choice; sexual preference is not.

Go to the end of the class.

RONALD RIML's picture

  northwoods: smokings causes

 

northwoods:

smokings causes disease and death - for the smoker and others.  Proven fact.  That it is legal and cannabis isn't is logically insane - but such is the power of Big Tobacco and Thumpers.

Baggy pants don't cause disease and death.  Gang-Bangers and their guns do.  That's another issue.

I'de go along with raising the gas tax if we had decent public transportation a la' Europe.

But we're don't.

So we're stuck.

RONALD RIML's picture

  northwoods: - Unlike 'Baggy

 

northwoods: - Unlike 'Baggy Pants' - which are also unnecessary and serve no useful purpose

There's an entirely rational reason that people don't like smoking....

It freakin' kills us!!!

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

Since Media I.E. Newspapers

Since Media I.E. Newspapers cause Greif and dispair lets tax that out of bussiness right I mean, we must after all dictate what one does with thier life what they drink, eat, and every other facet they do must conform to yours right??? If not tax them into submission right??? what a bunch of communistic sloths you are really are... when People wake up ONE DAY SOON they will find they have no rights.

RONALD RIML's picture

  Danny: The media - along

 

Danny:

The media - along with the rest of us - including you - has a Constitutional Right to publish, so why are you shooting the messanger?

Why not try growing your own tobacco - seeing how it's not a 'scheduled' drug as cannabis is, and see if you can avoid state and federal taxes as do home brewers?

You might still have that right....... 

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