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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Federal tax hike bad policy

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

With the new federal tax on tobacco products that goes into effect today, some people may indeed quit using these products. That was part of the rationale for passing the tax hike, which equates to 61 cents extra for each pack of cigarettes. The other reason was to finance a federal program that expands health care for children.

The legislation was passed without much fanfare and was supported by our Congressional representative and well as both of our Senators.

We opposed the tax, and still do. It's bad policy at a very bad time.

It's bad policy because tobacco in general and smokers in particular are easy targets for politicians. Most people are "against" tobacco and the evils of smoking, right? Many politicians with no backbone jump on that bandwagon at every turn. Picking a certain group of consumers, who choose to purchase a legal product, for a tax hike is at its core unfair. And this idea of taxing a product that poses health risks is even scarier. What's next? Should the government slap an extra tax on food that has high levels of sugar and fat? After all, obesity causes more health problems than smoking. Do we want the government to eventually dictate what we consume by taxing "unhealthy" products?

The tax hike was obviously bad timing because it will hurt retailers as well as tobacco farmers. Franklin County tobacco farmers may be facing a 20 percent drop in revenue as a result of this tax. Sales tax revenue will also take a hit.

During the campaign last year, almost every politician running for office said a tax hike would not occur. But that's one of the first things the new President and Congress did.

And the money for the program that expands health care to children could easily have been included in the stimulus package.

This is a free country, and we have choices to make all the time. Some of those choices about what we eat, drink or smoke may not be wise, but in this country, we should have the option of making that choice.

Allowing the government to keep stepping in and using economic muscle to wrestle those choices away is a slippery slope indeed.

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