Cigarette Tax Poised to Pass

October 2004
One of the ballot initiatives you will be voting on next week would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes in Colorado from 20 cents a pack to 84 cents a pack. The measure is expected to pass by a wide margin. The Denver Post this morning endorsed the initiative, pointing out that it will help fund child health care programs and make Colorado eligible for matching federal Medicaid funds. Also, a portion of the revenue would be given to community health centers. The Post says these needed programs might suffer without the measure because of state budgetary woes. Unlike in 1994, when a 50-cent hike was proposed and defeated, this year the tobacco companies are staying mum and not putting up money for ads to defeat the tax. So the issue is being presented to the voters without meaningful debate. For those who are interested, here are the reasons advanced by opponents for voting against the increased tax.
  • Cigarette taxes hit those least able to afford it with the harshest possible tax penalties.
  • Targeting a punitive tax increase on one segment of society to pay for the tremendous growth of state government is unfair, particularly where the tax will hit minority low-income citizens the hardest .
  • Taxes do not belong in the Constitution no matter how meaningful the programs are that will benefit from them or how out of favor the product being taxed may be.
  • The higher tax will hurt small businesses because cigarette sales will decline.
  • Today it is cigarettes that are out of favor. With our obesity rate climbing, tomorrow it could be McDonalds. Where does it stop?
  • Boosting the cigarette tax will result in more contraband trafficking and residents seeking cheaper alternatives online or across the state border.
  • Higher taxes do not always translate into higher revenues. Besides, state finances are not suffering because of a revenue problem - they are suffering because of a spending problem.
Some of those reasons make sense to us and some don't. But now that we've reported, you decide.