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Writer slams Sen. Massey on Cigarette Tax Vote

web posted June 3, 2008
Dear Editor:

In answer to Shane Massey, I suggest the title to his Guest Article, (May 21, 2008) should have been "The Cigarette Tax:  A Lesson in Sending the Wrong Person to the Senate."
His feeble defense of opposing a modest increase in the tax on cigarettes smacks of intellectual dishonesty. The suggestion that the state will go to rack and ruin because of a four-bit cigarette tax increase that it collects as easy as self-rising flour is GOPaloney.  Instead of bashing poor people and fighting to deny health benefits to kids, Massey should work on the real culprit: the terrible and escalating cost of health care, or are the pharmaceutical/insurance/corporate medicine lobbies too much for him?
Massey's position has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility.  What it is about is supporting Governor Veto's arrogant boast that South Carolina hasn't had a tax increase in thirty years.  Thirty years!  While the population has doubled.  Do you remember what a loaf of bread cost thirty years ago?  A gallon of gasoline?
The cigarette tax increase was modest.  At 7 cents per pack South Carolina is not only the cheapest state in the nation in that department, ranking 51st (including District of Columbia), but by a long shot – Missouri is 50th at 17 cents and the national average is one dollar.  Raising the excise to 57 cents a pack would have put South Carolina at 12th lowest in the country.
If the 57 cent tax would have produced $160 million per year, using Massey's figure, that means South Carolina would smoke about 5 ½ billion cigarettes per year, or over a thousand for every man, woman and child in the state.  So instead of adopting a policy that would help discourage those children from taking up smoking, Massey is walking lock-step with Big Tobacco.  While Emperor Sanford and Senator Massey fiddle, South Carolina burns!
Smoke gets in your eyes.

Hal Irish


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