A Sinful Sin Tax Increase

Ummm, a 150 percent tax increase on tobacco? Enough already with government agencies relying on cigarette taxes as a go-to funding source. The proponents of Measure 108 are presenting this as if the sole intention is for smoking prevention and cessation, but if you look at the details, only 10 percent of the funding would go towards such programs. The rest goes to “support the Oregon Health Plan.” What does that mean?

Oregon already received almost $340 million in FY 2020 from cigarette taxes but only used $9 million of that towards smoking prevention/cessations programs. So where did the rest of that money go? Why do they need more? My hunch is that there’s a gap in the OHP budget and apparently the wealthy corporations (such as Providence Health System) don’t want to pay higher taxes to contribute to filling that gap. This is despite the fact that their revenue has substantially increased in the past several years, and they already pay no business income taxes or property taxes.

Why not just spend more of the already existing cigarette revenue to address youth smoking (which has already decreased significantly since the smoking age went from 18 to 21) and stop trying to enact more regressive taxes that disproportionately affect the poor? The current federal and state tax of $2.34 per pack already pays for the “sins” of smokers. Taxes should not be selective and punitive, especially if they hurt the poorest among us the hardest.

Rachael Morrison