Tax condoms, not cigarettes

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tax the rich…feed the poor?

I don’t think so…it’s more like tax the poor to help the poor.

On Wednesday night of last week, I encountered the proverbial “sticker shock” and I wasn’t shopping for a new vehicle. The shock came when I made my normal purchase of two packs of cigarettes (which I buy every two days). The normal two-pack special had increased from $5.98 to $8.04.

So…what’s up?

My online research revealed this hike was linked to tobacco companies.

While a $2.06 hike is steep, apparently I and other smokers haven’t seen anything yet.

Thanks to our new president, a smoker himself, the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes is slated to increase April 1 from 39 cents a pack to an even one dollar. If my math is correct, that’s another 61 cents per pack.

Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina, one of the nation’s largest tobacco producers, is seeking ways to fill a projected $3.4 billion budget deficit. Years of misspending…not to mention misconduct…in Raleigh has helped lead to this staggering hole to fill. Years of bigger government and even larger budgets are now coming home to roost.

So how do our elected leaders choose to whittle down that deficit? The Governor has opted to withhold certain school funding as well as intercepting lottery proceeds. And, by the way, they’re talking about increasing the tax on all tobacco products.

Why is it every time the state…and now the federal government…needs money, they turn to increasing the “sin tax” (cigarettes and alcohol). Times are tough enough without passing along another tax hike, especially when it’s done by signaling out one group of Americans and not evenly distributing the burden on all.

It sounds like Obama’s “spread the wealth” promise actually meant tax the smokers to pay for new federal programs.

In late January, the U.S. Senate voted to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 11 million low-income youngsters. While I’m all for making sure that children have health insurance, why am I and all tobacco users solely targeted to foot the entire bill? The $32.8 billion expansion will be paid for by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents.

What if that steep tax hike causes a large number of smokers to kick the habit? Where will the federal government, now obligated to take care of an additional 11 million children, turn to fill that financial void?

Am I expected to do my part in this and not quit smoking in order to fund the program?

Here’s a novel idea…why don’t we invest in a sex education program that will help lower the number of welfare babies. We’ll wind up with a smaller number of low-income children to provide health insurance, thusly lowering the cost of that federal program.

I completely understand, even at my age, that people have sexual urges. The federal government could even benefit from that fact. If they want to generate some big bucks, switch the 61-cent tax hike on cigarettes to a pack of condoms.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.