By C. R. S. Lyles
Let’s face it: smoking is not collectively "in vogue" anymore.

Yet the irony of the fact is that the matchslingers of this world, who often find themselves wanting for the support of the American people (and more importantly, the American lawmakers), are the biggest contributors to the American way of life.

How is this possible? you may ask. Certainly they are not contributing to the collective health of the nation, because, let’s face it, the effects of smoking cigarettes are detrimental to one’s health, and the general consensus of the country is that the other tobacco products have adverse effects as well.

But the health issues are beside the point, because, honestly, more money is being funneled into research on how to cure obesity (which is actually pretty ironic that we as a society have to conduct research on how to be less fat) than is being used to fund anti-smoking campaigns or organizations whose mission is to treat people suffering from its more negative effects.

The point of the matter is that the smokers who have to stand out in the cold to light up like a miniature club of social pariahs are the very people who are backing the American dream.

Here’s why.

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Gov. Ed Rendell’s budget for Pennsylvania’s 2009-2010 fiscal year that begins in two weeks will be looking in part to increased and new taxes on cigarette and cigar smokers for additional tax revenues which the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association says will never come.

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It may sound like the theme of a Jim Carrey comedy - First, we ban smoking, then we raise tobacco taxes - but members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association in Kansas aren’t finding this ironic potential scenario very funny.

Last month, the Kansas legislature passed and Gov. Mark Parkinson signed a comprehensive ban against smoking in restaurants, bars and most workplaces. Now, with the governor’s support, some state lawmakers are poised to increase taxes on most tobacco products from 10 percent to 40 percent. The Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation will hear public testimony for SB516 on Wednesday, March 10. Several IPCPR members plan to testify against the bill.

"It would be funny if it weren’t so serious. Two wrongs don’t make a right," said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR.

"Legislated smoking bans violate the personal rights of everyone - smokers and non-smokers, alike - and everyone knows that increased taxes on tobacco products result in lower tax revenues because they encourage illegal sales of bootlegged tobacco products. People also cross borders and use the Internet to purchase their tobacco products which eliminates all tobacco taxes from the state’s coffers," said McCalla.

"All legislated smoking bans should be abolished, and a tobacco tax increase is wrong for the times and wrong for Kansas," said McCalla. His organization is a not-for-profit group of more than 2,000 cigar store owners and manufacturers and distributors of premium cigars and pipe tobacco.

McCalla said most IPCPR members are owners of small, mom-and-pop operations that pay taxes and employ local people. Legislated smoking bans and higher tobacco taxes, he said, result in lower sales of premium cigars, pipe tobacco and other tobacco products which, in turn, reduce tax revenues for the state and, more importantly, result in lost jobs and failed businesses.

"The last thing Kansas needs is lower tax revenues, lost jobs and closed businesses," McCalla said.

Stop the Pipe Tobacco Tax
    January 23rd, 2010

Stop a 775% Tax Increase on Pipe Tobacco!

H.R. 4439, the Tobacco Tax Parity Act of 2010 was introduced on January 13, 2010 and would raise the tax on pipe tobacco 775% from $2.8311 to $24.78 per pound.

As a service to the pipe smoking community and the industry of pipe makers and pipe tobacco producers we have set up a free service that will automatically send emails to your Senators and Congressmen.

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A tax increase of 775% on anything is ludicrous. This will kill many small businesses and an historical tradition.

Download the bill here

Sacramento, CA (PRWEB) June 20, 2009 — California legislators are grasping at tax straws that don’t exist as they seek to raise billions of dollars that don’t exist for a balanced state budget that doesn’t exist, according to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.

Two legislators - Democrat Assemblyman Tom Torlakson of Contra Costa County and Democrat State Senator Alex Padilla of Los Angeles - have introduced AB89 and SB600, respectively. The bills propose to increase tobacco taxes to as much as $2.10 per pack of cigarettes on top of the current $.87 per pack state tax and recently increased federal taxes of $1.00 per pack plus correspondingly stiff increases on other tobacco products like cigars and pipe tobacco.

"It’s easy to call these ‘tobacco taxes’, but the truth is they are discriminatory taxes that target some 15 percent of California adults who enjoy tobacco in one form or another , whether they smoke cigarettes or savor hand-made cigars" said Chris McCalla, legislative director of IPCPR.

"Real people pay these taxes… real people at all economic levels who vote and who have had enough overspending by government. They are customers of our more than 200 members throughout the state of California who are smoke shop owners and manufacturers or distributors of premium cigars and other tobacco products. They are, for the most part, small, family-owned businesses that employ thousands of their neighbors. As taxes go up and sales go down, their businesses are as threatened as the jobs of their employees and the sales, income and other taxes collected by the local, state and federal governments," McCalla said.

Proponents of increased tobacco taxes claim they will make it more difficult for under-aged individuals to purchase cigarettes.

"Higher taxes do not make it more difficult for teen-agers to purchase tobacco … they only make it more expensive for them and everyone else. If we want to keep kids from smoking - and we agree that everyone should support that goal - we should be enforcing the laws that are already on the books as do all members of the IPCPR," said McCalla.

McCalla disagreed with an editorial in a California newspaper (Wednesday, June 17, Los Angeles Times) that said increasing state tobacco taxes would be a "fair and constructive" way to find "balance" for the budget.

"The bills’ sponsors are estimating that these new, taxes on 15 percent of Californians might generate up to $2 billion as the state seeks to fill its $24 billion deficit. That is anything but fair, constructive or balanced," McCalla said.

The state switches to a punitive weight-based tax on many tobacco products, which benefits Philip Morris and penalizes the smaller producers.

AUSTIN, Texas, May 27 /PRNewswire/ — The Texas Senate voted 29-2 to pass a $100 million tax increase on smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products. HB 2154, while being a laudable program to fund rural doctor programs and changes in the business franchise tax, relies on an enormous tax on smokeless and other tobacco products, such as pipe tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco to help fund the legislation. The Texas House voted on a similar measure by a vote of 79-61 after much contentious debate. This issue has been debated over the past three legislative sessions and is largely viewed as an internal tobacco industry fight between industry giant, Philip Morris (now Altria), and the smallest companies says National Tobacco, headquartered in Louisville, KY.

"It is unfortunate that the Texas Senate, with little debate and what appears to be little understanding of the real market, passed a large tax increase on the small companies that compete with the ‘Marlboro(R) Man’ and ‘Copenhagen(R) Man,’ not realizing such a tax hike will do little to sustain these programs going forward," says Ron Tully, Vice President of National Tobacco. "This new tax is a huge gift to the same tobacco company that was sued in the late 1990’s by the State of Texas, and the same company that recently lost an Appeal in the US Department of Justice case, for deceptive trade practices."

This bill changes the methodology of how smokeless tobacco is taxed, from being a tax on the manufacturer’s list price to being a tax based on the weight of tobacco in the final retail package. "Texas has been enjoying a rise in tax revenues from the current smokeless and other tobacco products tax, because the free market allowed companies to compete aggressively for adult customers. Texas has consistently brought in more tax revenue each year on these products, as almost all manufacturers, including Philip Morris, annually increase their prices on brands such as Copenhagen(R) and Skoal(R) to offset rising costs. As a result of these annual increases, the state gets an automatic revenue bump from the current list price tax. Even the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts acknowledges that the revenue from smokeless tobacco based on the current list price method, would increase from $75,918,000 to $86,877,000 for the biennium 2010-2011. With the proposed weight-based tax method, Texas will experience less revenue in the future as tobacco sales decline," says Tully.

Tully added, "Philip Morris, which now has over a 50% share of the cigarette market and over a 50% share of the smokeless tobacco market, is pushing for this weight-based tax on almost all tobacco products, simply to take out the small competitors in the market and make its smokeless and smoking brands the dominant market players. Interestingly Philip Morris has managed to maintain an exemption from this new weight-based tax for its popular Black and Mild(R) cigar products. Texas will now have the unpopular distinction of being among only a few of the 50 states that have elected to switch to a punitive weight-based tax on many tobacco products."

"When doctors who have historically opposed smoking, stand with Philip Morris, you know it has got to be a bad deal for someone. If Philip Morris is supporting a tax on the tobacco industry, you also know it must be a good deal for them and the brands they sell. And it is," Tully says.

SOURCE National Tobacco Co.