Tobacco Cessation or Just Increasing General Fund Revenue?

Sin TaxesThe Oregon legislature is once again trying to raise the cigarette tax, this time by $1.00 per pack. According to the sponsors of the bill―Representative Mitch Greenlick and Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, both of west Portland―the primary purpose of HB 2275 is to reduce tobacco consumption, not raise revenue for the state.

But the bill itself tells another story. It states in Section 6 that “All moneys from the taxes imposed by this Act shall be credited to the General Fund.” Where is the specific assistance for smokers trying to quit smoking? It’s not there. Under current law, the state’s Tobacco Use Reduction account receives only 2.9% of all current cigarette tax revenue, and HB 2275 does not increase that.

Moreover, since 1999 the state has received more than $1 billion from smokers through the so-called “Master Settlement Agreement” with the four largest tobacco companies. That money was supposed to pay for the “costs of smoking” imposed on society. Yet, most of those funds were spent on other programs that had little to do with public health, and none of it went to tobacco cessation programs.

Smokers are routinely picked on by legislators because they are a vulnerable minority, but they are already paying more than their fair share of taxes. If reducing tobacco use is really the goal, it’s time for politicians to try another approach.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • JacklordGod

    I remember when the left first conjured this notion that someones private behavior imposed costs on “society” and therefore they could regulate it. It began with the idiotic notion that if you didnt wear a motorcycle helmet, all your insurance vaporized when you had an accident, and thus you imposed costs on society. It was an idiotic argument, but it worked. Motorcycles riders told us these people would not be satisfied, that they would be back for more. We laughed at this paranoia and we were wrong to do so. .

    Now it’s the same with smoking – when you smoke, all your health insurance, any ability to pay is somehow instantly vaporized, thus all of us have to pay for your decisions, thus we get to go after you.

    Is it nonsense again? You bet. But we fell for this same sucker play yet again.

    Where is the outrage when the thieves take this money they were supposedly spending on all these most needed programs and steal it?

    No where.


    For one simple reason. We all cling to the notion that these sorts of things are aberrations. That something went wrong in this instance but is not indictment of the whole.

    That is insanity. How many times are we going to say “this was done with the best of intentions”. or excuse things as “unintended consequences”?

    I’ve got news for you. The left is perfectly comfortable indicting the entire Tea Party as racist because they spotted one guy with a racist T shirt somewhere sometime. The left is perfectly fine with indicting the entire Republican party as homophobic because someone said an anti gay slur sometime.

    Those are isolated incidents, but you better believe if you are talking to someone on the left, they assume you have a natural bent towards homophobia and are likely a racist until proven otherwise.

    I would say it is about time to take the same attitude towards the left. Especially when these “unintended consequences best of intentions” events are not isolated but rather the norm.

    They set up the tobacco lawsuits, the settlements, the taxes, to get money from people by force to pay for nonsense voters would never pay for otherwise. The kids that in the ad campaigns used to pass these taxes? The ones that would die unless those taxes passed? Those photogenic moppits that if you didnt agree with, if you didnt fork over your loot, then you were a child hater and deserved to burn in hell? Yeah, those kids. Well, screw them was the lefts attitude once these taxes were passed. We got our money punk, take your whiny routine somewhere else, until we need you for the next ad campaign.

    The left is a bunch of thieves. They never wanted this money to help anyone. They wanted it for government expansion and that’s about it. It’s about time to be honest about that.

    • betel nuts

      Again smoke gets in our eyes – albeit michael moore-on guise – and guys, let US awl send the Dem fookers in the Oregon legishooters on a sloe ginny derelict to Tasmania, thereto reprise their inanitease, please.

  • Granola girl

    Unfortunately the majority of persons who smoke, can’t afford their habit to begin with, already giving up buying milk to feed their kids so they can afford their pack of smokes. Just because they raise the price will not make smoking go away. It is addicting, and those addicted will act like addicts.

  • Oregonnative

    One billion dollars recieved and none of it went to smoker cessation plan. Shame on Oregon leagistrative. Representative GReenlick and Senator Stiener will say ” it’s not our fault this was the case, as it was before out time”. Now we wish to tax smokers more and by the way “none of this money will go to smoker cessation”, again…but in the general fund. They are basically saying ” we need it to support our retirement called pers”. They do not wish to bring up that if they just squeak by with two terms…they recieve pers the rest of their lives. So yes support them and their crazy tax ideas for the general fund ” in the face” of the tax payers. Laws that will take care of them the rest of their lives, and medical also. .. general fund.
    A billion dollars hear and a billion dollars there and nothing to help the addicts quit.
    I wonder where Oregon state tobacco tax is going also?
    The new mantra is, “Not what we can do for our beautiful state of Oregon, but what our state can do for me”
    It is hard to believe how the less well off can afford a pack of cigarettes.

  • bartles

    They would be dumbstruck if smoking actually was reduced by an amount that reduced the enormous revenues the State collects from cigarette taxes. Complete hypocrisy. No actually, just lies.`

  • Ballistic45

    Liberals license to steal is called “Sin Tax”…….

  • Moe

    Kinda like lottery funds going to reduce gambling. Never happens. Ever. And if it does, it is a joke. I know, as I tried to get help from the state to stop buying lottery tickets and they just laughed at me and called me names.
    They did not help me and now I still buy the tickets every chance I get, but I have never won a single thing.

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