Posted: 8:38 PM Jan 14, 2010
A member of a group representing small-store tobacco sellers, says legislated smoking bans are based on misinformation about secondhand smoke.
Reporter: From 13 News
TOPEKA — Governor Mark Parkinson’s efforts to increase taxes primarily on lower- and middle-class Kansans should be thwarted, according to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
Parkinson has requested that the state legislature increase taxes on groceries, clothing, tobacco and other consumer goods to help offset the state’s gaping budget shortfall projected to be some $400 million in the fiscal year beginning July, 2010.
“In addition to a substantial increase in tobacco taxes, the governor has asked for a comprehensive statewide smoking ban. So, on one hand he wants people to smoke in order to fund government projects and, on the other hand, he wants people to stop smoking. Neither position makes any sense,” said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR.
The IPCPR is a non-profit organization comprised of some 2,000 largely mom-and-pop small businesses engaged in the manufacturing, distributing and retailing of premium cigars, pipes, tobacco and related accoutrements sold in neighborhood cigar stores.
McCalla said tobacco taxes disproportionately burden lower- and middle-income people, that such taxes are an unreliable and unsustainable source of revenue and that, as tobacco taxes increase, sales of tobacco decline. Couple the increased taxes with a smoking ban and it would only ensure higher unemployment and increased business failures, he added.
“That puts people out of jobs, results in ruined businesses, and prevents state programs from being funded. On top of higher taxes, he wants a statewide smoking ban which would only hasten the demise of that revenue stream,” he said. “Besides, tobacco taxes are a discriminatory tax on a minority of the population – the 20 percent of adults who smoke.”
According to published reports cited by McCalla, 20 percent of people who continue to smoke despite tax increases find ways around paying the higher taxes.
“They use black market, cross-border and Internet purchasing which hurt local businesses and prevent the state from collecting any taxes whatsoever. They go to neighboring states where tobacco taxes and prices are lower. They fall victim to crimes of buying bootlegged tobacco products,” McCalla said. “In these ways, non-smokers as well as smokers suffer from the increased taxes.”
“Some people say there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke. Not so. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA – has established safe levels of secondhand smoke and those safe levels are 25,000 times higher than are found in restaurants and bars,” he said.