$1.50 per pack increase in cigarette tax? No thanks!


This is a letter that appeared today in the SF Chronicle:


Editor -- Kudos to David Lazarus for his column "Industry smoke screen" Lazarus at Large, June 6).

That article deserves some fisking in its own right - I may take it up later.

The tobacco industry makes millions of dollars from addicted smokers, half of whom will die from tobacco-inflicted disease.

I think I detect a little bias here. Here's a clue - the tobacco industry makes billions of dollars every year from its customers. Whether or not a smoker is addicted is not really relevant here. The half who may die would die over the next 20-30 years.

Everyone who cares about a healthy California should contact their legislators and Gov. Davis and urge them to support the $1.50 tobacco tax increase, with 20 cents earmarked to fund the state's world-renowned tobacco prevention, control and quit programs.

An interesting rationalization for a new cigarette tax. Smokers are going to die from cigarette smoking, so let's tax them to death first!

The $1.50 tax is per pack - that translates to a tax of $15.00 per carton, plus sales tax. Here in San Francisco, that would total to $16.27 per carton. Currently, the taxes on a carton of cigarettes in California is $3.90 in federal tax and $8.70 in state tax. Including sales tax, that comes out to $13.67 per carton. I'm paying just a little over $40 per carton right now. Current taxes are about 1/3 of the total price. This new tax would increase the retail price at least 40% (probably closer to 50%). Cigarettes will go from $40 per carton to somewhere around $60 per carton, with about 50% of that price just paying the taxes. Unbelievable.

This new tax would cost me $800 - $1,000 per year on top of the $650 per year I'm already paying. I honestly don't care what the money is going towards. That is too high of a tax bill to be borne by smokers.

If this tax actually passes, I would be sorely tempted to get my cigarettes in Nevada. Their state cigarette tax is only $3.50 per carton - I would save $20 per carton. Drive once a month, pick up 4 cartons - the $80 I would save would more than pay for the gas for the trip.

Those that are in support of this tax might want to think on that. Nevada is not that far away for anyone in California. And for every carton bought in Nevada instead of California, California does not collect one cent of the current tax or the new tax. California's tax revenue decreases instead of increases.

The tax increase will not only save lives, it will create more than $1 billion to help balance the state budget and fund essential services such as health care, education and law enforcement.

I have never EVER heard of a tax that saves lives. Someone is going to have to explain to me how taking money out of my wallet saves my life. If taxes need to be raised to pay for health care, education, and law enforcement - things that everyone benefits from - then shouldn't everyone have to chip in, not just a minority?

And how does funding for education and law enforcement (and everything else covered by the state's General Fund) fall under "caring about a healthy California"? If a "healthy California" is so frickin' important, how come so few cigarette tax dollars actually go towards that purpose?

The only losers would be the tobacco purveyors, and they're losers anyway.

Yeah, them and the smokers who would have to pay this outrageous tax. It's nice to know that it's okay with you to tax everyone you consider a "loser". Too bad I can't tax people I consider losers - the writer of this letter would be high on my list.

San Francisco

Ms. Miller - Stick to taxes that you personally are willing to pay for and stop offering to spend money out of my wallet. I don't really have $1,000 to spare. Do you?


Since you asked, I think that if I was still a smoker and I knew that the tax would actually go to programs that help people quit (not to mention an analysis showed that the additional tax would cause over half a million smokers to quit), and help kids decide not to start smoking in the first place, I may not love it, but would at least consider that to be a fair proposal. The reality is that right now the tobacco tax is being redirected into other things and that's not fair to smokers -- if they're going to be taxed, part of that tax should go into quit programs that actually benefit them. And frankly, if you keep smoking, it is likely that my tax dollars (and the tax dollars of the 82% of Californians who don't smoke) will be the ones paying for your treatment for cancer or heart disease, hospitalization, and so on, as they are currently paying for people who are now dying from years of tobacco use. Perhaps that will further your belief that I'm a loser... and I have lost; lost my grandfather at age 62 to cancer caused, in all likelihood, by smoking, not to mention my 21-year-old sister has been smoking since the Joe Camel marketing-to-little-kids days when she was 12 years old, and I know she might seriously consider quitting smoking now if it became too expensive to continue. I stand by my position on the proposed tobacco tax.

Good luck in your own quit attempts. It can be done.


I have posted a lengthy reply to your comments here.

what is cost for 5 cartons of Camels and shipping costs?