Although tobacco taxes are often raised with the stated intention that the additional revenue will be spent on smoking cessation programs; the truth is that it is usually frittered away.
A recent story by Petro S Ka Sfikis and Mike Trinh for the Attleboro Sun Chronicle is illustrative.
‘Twenty years ago, supporters of a tobacco tax increase for Massachusetts had lofty goals for the money,’ they wrote.
‘A voter-approved 1992 ballot initiative nearly doubled the cigarette tax from 26 cents to 51 cents a pack to fund the creation of the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. The program used advertising, counseling and other steps to help smokers quit.
‘By 1994, the program’s budget was $52.2 million – about 22 per cent of the tax revenue.
‘But although the tax was increased three more times to the current $2.51 a pack, spending on anti-smoking programs dropped 92 per cent as more and more tax revenue was used to plug gaps in the state budget.
‘This fiscal year, state government will collect a combined $815 million in tobacco taxes and payments from a 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. It will spend $4.1 million on anti-tobacco programs – less than 1 per cent of total revenues.
‘The programs could see even less money in the next budget despite the likely passage of another $1-per-pack tax increase. The $165 million from the hike is already earmarked for the state’s transportation system.
‘Other states have gone in similar directions.’
What is particularly odd about the above is that tobacco use, and especially cigarette consumption, is seen by many people in authority as being one of the most destructive forces society faces.
Category: Breaking News