Light 'em up | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Light 'em up

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 7:38 PM

Harmonic convergence today.

Spokesmen for Altria, the company once known as Philip Morris, flew in from Richmond, Va., to talk to media about the company's opposition to Gov. Beebe's 56-cent-pack increase in cigarette taxes to pay for a range of health initiatives.

Their broad objections are familiar: Taxing a habit that is declining; targeting a small portion of the population for a broad benefit; the prospect of sending border state business from Arkansas merchants to neighborhing states; encouragement of bootlegging to avoid taxes.

To which I say: If a higher tax discourages smoking and its costly side effects even more, good.

Because they arrived the afternoon a new federal study ranked Ark. No. 7 in death rate from smoking. We're 13th lowest in taxing smokes.

I offered a tradeoff to the tobacco reps I'd consider -- a slash in the proposed tax for their commitment to ban smoking in the public places still excepted under Arkansas's huge loophole. Ha ha, they said. I was only half joking. Neither of the PR guys smoked, by the way.

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