Midday Must Read: Time to Tax Cigars and Smokeless Tobacco

An editorial in the Harrisburg Patriot-News trumpets some good news on the public health care front: cigarette use among high school seniors has dropped since 2003. This is from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that also has some bad news: increasing numbers of teens are smoking cigars and using smokeless tobacco.

Pennsylvania could take steps to address this while raising additional revenue for health care and other public services. All it has to do is join the vast majority of states that assess an excise tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco. Pennsylvania is one of only two states without such a tax on cigars and the only state in the nation without one on smokeless tobacco products.

While the decline in cigarette smoking is positive, there also is bad news in the CDC’s report released last month: Increasing numbers of teens are using cigars and smokeless tobacco.

... These aren’t your grandfather’s stogies. The tobacco industry — knowing its audience — has created slick lines of cigars that resemble cigarettes and are flavored to taste like everything from sour apple and strawberry to coffee and cinnamon.

Unfortunately, they are taxed at a lower rate, making them more attractive to teens in taste and price... 

As for Pennsylvania, lawmakers and the governor need to finally start taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco next year with the 2013-14 state spending plan. We have allowed the industry and tobacco growers to sway a policy that doesn’t make sense — we are the only state that does not tax smokeless tobacco.

In a state that is cutting education and social programs because of tight budgets, an increase in revenue from the taxes would be welcome funding to state coffers. And it could save lives or at the very least save a teen from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. 

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