Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Cigarettes and Taxation...

Healthcare, Political, Taxes, U.S., Wisconsin

I have not smoked a cigarette since July 5, 1985 but smoked three packs per day at the time I quit...for the last time.  With that disclaimer stated, if I were still a cigarette smoker, I'd be looking for alternatives. 

What are the alternatives?  The first, and the one I finally chose after numerous failed attempts, is to quit using cigarettes.  Another, is to cut back on the amount of cigarettes smoked.  Yet another is to find someplace where cigarettes are still 'affordable'. 

What jumps out as I look at this issue is that all the alternatives will reduce the amount of taxes collected by Wisconsin and will cause some businesses difficulty, yet the uses for those tax dollars will continue to exist, and to grow if they behave like anything else our government does.  Does this make sense to you?  If so, I'd love to have it explained because I can't find anything sensible about it other than for the people who, like me, will have finally 'kicked the habit'.

Where can one go to avoid the heavy taxation?  Almost anywhere.  Neighboring states would be one place.  Tribal land would probably be another although I've not any idea of what those prices will look like with this market aberration.  The Internet is another place, although Wisconsin says it has that taken care of through laws passed requiring those U.S.-based merchants to pass information back to the taxing authorities.

If you take a moment to 'Google' the word 'cigarettes' as I did this morning, you'll see something on the order of 31 million hits.  The second one on the first page told me how I could buy a carton of Marlboros for $12.40 from what appears to be a Mexican-based company that states categorically that it doesn't report anything to the United States.

Now, if you decided to continue to smoke, which so far is your choice (except for location), would you rather pay $12.40 plus shipping costs or would you prefer to drive to your local emporium and spend $52.70 for the same carton of cigarettes?  I think I know your answer.

So, the bottom line as I am seeing it is this:

People are going to continue smoking except for the 10% to 15% who manage to quit each year, while the same or greater amount of people take up the habit.  People are going to find other places to buy their cigarettes.  Wisconsin merchants will suffer.  Foreign merchants will love us even more than yesterday, and our other taxes will go up to offset the loss of tax revenue already spent by the state.  Our healthcare costs will continue to climb as will lost time costs.

New Jersey has the distinction of being the state that taxes cigarettes the most at about $2.58 per pack.  Wisconsin has, today, risen to the status of the twelfth highest taxing state at $1.77 per pack ($2.02 per pack if you count the sales tax).  New Jersey found that its cigarette tax collection rate dropped by nearly 50% when it reached its current tax threshold.  How much will Wisconsin's tax collection rate drop?  We'll be able to figure that out come next year and the year after, because our other taxes will be going up so that the programs can be continued.

For a legal product, cigarettes are sure unpopular.  Milwaukee County just closed the smoking lounge at Mitchell Airport even though the only people who went inside were smokers, and even though there was no semblance of smoke outside the lounge.  The various bills that are sure to be introduced and re-introduced in the coming months will seek to ban them almost everywhere other than in one's own home...and that is even on the target now in California.

The stench of hypocrisy is much more offensive to me than the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke.

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