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Letter to the Editor

Writer rails against cigarette tax increase

web posted March 25, 2009
Dear Editor,
Congratulations South Carolina!  We’ve received our 49 cent per carton increase in cigarette tax income without even a single vote.  That’s right, the recently imposed federal tax increase in taxes on each carton of cigarettes sold adds 49 cents in sales tax revenue for the coffers of South Carolina.

And now our legislators want to get more.

Most of those who argue for raising the state tax on cigarettes present a magical figure of how much money it will raise.  Others make the argument that smokers will stop smoking, which if true will negate any increase in cigarette tax revenue.

So, what’s the truth? 

First and foremost cigarettes provide jobs.  There are farmers who grow the tobacco, manufacturers that make the cigarettes, wholesalers who sell the cigarettes, and retailers that sell the cigarettes to the public.  Less smoking means less or even eliminated jobs.  During our current economic crisis, this is not the best time to vote to eliminate jobs.

Second, raising taxes on cigarettes does cause people to stop smoking.  There is only so much money that someone has for disposable, discretionary spending.  Study after study shows that raising cigarette taxes causes an eight percent drop in smoking.  Coming on the back of the recent federal tax increase, South Carolina can expect a 16% decrease in sales if they chose to raise the taxes one more time.

Third, South Carolina cannot expect to see only a 16% decrease in sales.  When North Carolina raised their cigarette tax, South Carolina realized a 23.2% increase in sales.  We realize a similar amount of cross-border sales from Georgia.  That’s over $5 million dollars in just cigarette taxes from people who use no other South Carolina service!  And this doesn’t include the 6-7% state sales tax on each sale!  Sales tax revenue that directly helps Cities, Counties and State organizations.

Using history as our model, we in South Carolina will realize a decrease in cigarette sales by over 60% if we raise our taxes.  Imagine the number of unemployed people that would cause.

Doc Scheffler

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