By Tom Stark
WV Tobacco Tax Increase Pending...Extra Dollar Per Pack
H.B. 2973 currently being considered in the WV legislature would add a $1 tax to every pack of cigarettes sold in the state.

It would appear on the surface that this would serve several positive purposes and therefore might not be considered a bad move for the general public.  After all, only about a quarter of the general public smoke, right?  After all, the money will be used to fund government programs to help people quit smoking and provide funding for other health-related issues, right? All of the above are true.  However, I would strongly suggest, in spite of my desire to see several in my family quit the habit as soon as possible (Yes, I quit in 1984 and everyone knows that there is nothing worse than a reformed smoker), that these types of taxes are just too easy to implement and terribly hard to reverse.  How will you feel when they come after your pet vice or indulgence What if the government decided that some food you really liked was bad for your health?  Hey, why not tax chocolate? They could always slap a couple dollar tax on it to discourage you from purchasing it.  Then where will the shoe be? On the other foot?

It is, at the risk of falling into clichés, a very slippery slope on which we trod when we encourage what have been popularly referred to as "sin taxes."  One person's sin is another person's afternoon snack.  Look at the history of government attempts at changing behavior through taxation.  Most of the attempts were total failures in wiping out the "sin." Again, I don't like to see people smoke both because it is not good for them, shortens lives, and adds greatly to the overall cost of health care, but I refuse to jump on board the "sin tax" bandwagon simply in order to raise revenue that nine times out of ten never serves the intended purpose very well and provides an escape hatch for lawmakers who will not face reality and start cutting other costs to come up with needed funds for government programs that are truly within its purview and worthy of funding. Those who failed to show up in opposition to this tax measure on Monday, should get on the phones and faxes to their representatives before silence, again, signals consent and the government gets away with legalized theft of even more of our money.  Yes, only 25% will pay, but when will they get around to the 25% that includes you or me?  Think about it.