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.