The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday to raise federal tobacco taxes and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill proposes to increase the Federal tax on cigarettes by $0.61 a pack over the current $0.39 bringing the total to a $1.00 a pack.
The $33 billion would raise federal taxes on cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products to help fund the expansion. House Democrats have enthusiastically backed the expansion saying it will bring health care coverage to an additional four million lower-income kids.
What the House Democrats failed to mention was that this tax burden will fall on the shoulders of the poor and lower income folks – not the middle class and not the wealthy.
The vast majority of smokers in the United States have historically been the poor – the very same group this legislation is intended to benefit. Taxing cigarettes then becomes nothing more than a “bait and switch” regressive tax on the poor. In other words, what the poor think they are getting as free or greatly reduced cost heath care for their children, will cost them instead in disproportionately higher Federal taxes.
To get this “free” health care, the new tax would add an additional $222.65 per year Federal tax burden for a single-parent smoking household; assuming the parent smokes only one pack per day. This is almost a week’s take-home pay for a minimum wage worker. If both parents are smokers then it equals to two weeks of income per year just to pay the additional Federal tax increase.
Taxing the poor is political cowardice on the part of the Democrats. It is also ethically and morally bankrupt to use Federal taxes as a tool of social engineering. It is a use of government force to alter personal, non-rights violating behavior to punish people for engaging in activities that do not violate rights. And yet, that is exactly what this tax does.