Smoke Signals

Posted on December 15, 2005
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A new Arizona ballot initiative would raise taxes on a pack of cigarettes by 80 cents, making ours the fourth-highest cigarette tax in the nation.  The state would use the estimated $150 million a year to pay for a variety of new children's programs. Setting aside the merits, or demerits, of the programs themselves, the funding scheme is plain unfair.

If a program is geared to help all citizens, we should all share the costs. Singling out one group of citizens to pay for the rest of us smacks of discrimination. Why not single out a class of citizens by gender, by age, by race?

LEE Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health Organization, has noted that "consumption is inversely related to the socio-economic level - it goes up as the standard of living goes down." This means the initiative may have the unintended result of taxing some of Arizona's lower-income families to subsidize the middle class-now there's an interesting approach to public policy.

Cigarette taxes are popular because, as initiative spokesman Steve Roman says, "They are the avenue of least resistance." But in a country that prides itself on fairness and justice, this proposal deserves to go up in smoke.

Key Links:

- Western Political Review: "December 2005"
- Arizona Republic: "Cigarette tax of 80 cents a pack urged for state"
- Frontpage Magazine: "Smoke the Poor"
-CBS News: "The Poor Smoke More

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