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Tobacco tax unbalanced, won't fix budget problem

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2004

What group of people in Alaska pay the most taxes? The answer: Smokers! Currently, a one-pack-a-day smoker pays at least $365 a year in cigarette taxes. At two packs a day, a smoker pays $730 in cigarette taxes each year. With the additional cigarette and tobacco tax that Gov. Mor-tax-ski is pressing on our Legislature, a two-pack smoker will pay $1,460 a year in cigarette taxes. Hey, why not just take the permanent fund dividend away from smokers? They don't dare to suggest that, but in effect, that's exactly what they're going to do.

Notice also that the expected $35 million the state expects to collect from smokers annually does not show a decline over the years to reflect anti-smoking group claims that more and more people will quit smoking due to the increased tax. Get the picture? It's not about your health, it's about the money.

According to one of the anti-smoking groups, 3,500 people will quit smoking as a result of the increased tax. Let's see, $35 million divided by 3,500 is $10,000 in taxes that smokers will pay for one person to quit smoking. Send me $10,000, I'll quit smoking, too.

The argument that increased tobacco taxes will cause people to quit smoking is ludicrous as well. You cannot change attitudes or habits with taxation. Do people stop buying houses when property taxes go up or quit trying to increase their standard of living because their income taxes would go up? The answer is no. It does, however, cause people to try to circumvent the taxes. That's why this cigarette tax measure has a cost of $828,000 for increased enforcement. In case you don't know, that means more government bureaucrats.

One segment of the population cannot pay for Alaska's government. If the state really needs money, it's time for fair and equitable taxes that apply to all Alaskans.

Richard A. Burt

Anchorage



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