Make Sense? Conn. Relies on Cigarette Taxes to Balance Budget While Trying to End Tobacco Use

When large employers revolted against the original budget deal Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel Malloy came up with, the leaders turned to an old standby—more taxes on cigarettes. They are using it as a source of revenue to ease the burden slightly on the corporation. Yet something doesn’t make sense. The state is using cigarette taxes to balance budget while simultaneously trying to end tobacco use.

I never had a problem with taxing cigarettes when I worked for the General Assembly. But now some state leaders are stepping up their game against tobacco use, launching an assault on the source of revenue they desperately need.

New Haven for instance, has banned outdoor smoking in public spaces except for designated areas. Mayor Toni Harp hailed the measure on Monday which was “World No Tobacco Day.” Harp said the tobacco ban would help minorities not disproportionately hurt them.

The New Haven Independent reported, “Since last fall, the Harp administration has made tobacco cessation a main component of its public health agenda, with a three-pronged focus on raising awareness of the harms of smoking, helping smokers quit and preventing young people from starting up.”

The Boston Herald reports, “The tax increase [on cigarettes in Massachusetts] will be steeply regressive. As a fraction of disposable income, the burden of the new tax on households making less than $20,000 a year will be almost nine times the burden on those making $50,000 or more. For households making less than $20,000, smoking will now take up almost 12 percent of their disposable income. For households making $50,000 or more, it will take up a little more than 1 percent (emphasis added). The cigarette tax is terribly regressive and disproportionately hits lower-income folks.

So if one follows Mayor Harp’s and other’s positions to their logical conclusion, if the mayor succeeds in making New Haven tobacco-free, the state loses a major source of revenue which could mean tax increases on everyone.

It just doesn’t make sense.