The joint hearing was comprised of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee headed by Rep. Cody and the House Finance Committee chaired by Rep. Hunter. Hunter is seeking ways to offset an anticipated $2.6 billion state budget shortfall while Cody’s stated goal is to “force people to quit smoking.” “Those objectives are counter-productive… – neither happens,” said Joe Arundel, owner of Rain City Cigar Store in Seattle, and member of the Board of Directors of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR).
Olympia, WA (PRWEB) January 17, 2010 — Two Washington state legislative committees were at odds with each other at Thursday’s joint hearing regarding HB2493 aimed at increasing taxes on tobacco products.
The joint hearing was comprised of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee headed by Rep. Eileen Cody of Seattle and the House Finance Committee chaired by Rep. Ross Hunter of Medina. Hunter is seeking ways to offset an anticipated $2.6 billion state budget shortfall while Cody’s stated goal is to “force people to quit smoking.”
“Those objectives are counter-productive when it comes to increasing taxes on tobacco products – neither happens,” said Joe Arundel, owner of Rain City Cigar Store in Seattle, who testified at yesterday’s meeting.
“In fact, increased tobacco taxes cause many smokers to find ways around the higher taxes by engaging in illegal activities such as buying bootlegged products or by making their tobacco purchases in neighboring states where taxes are lower, or by purchasing tobacco products by mail-order or over the Internet. The result is the same: no tax revenues for the state of Washington and a loss of jobs and businesses within the state,” Arundel said.
Arundel is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. The IPCPR is a non-profit organization comprised of some 2,000 primarily small, mom-and-pop businesses that retail, manufacture or distribute premium cigars, pipes, tobacco and related accoutrements.
“People who have never enjoyed premium, hand-made cigars or pipes find it difficult to understand how different they are from cigarettes. Premium cigars and pipes make ordinary moments special and special moments extraordinary. They are indulged in relatively infrequently and are enjoyed for their social value as well as for their taste. That’s the way it’s been for centuries,” said Arundel.
Representing the Cigar Association of Washington was Dale Taylor who reminded the committees that tax reductions and reasonable tax caps on premium cigars and other tobacco products actually generate revenue increases for state treasuries whereas increased taxes cause those revenues to decline precipitously.
Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR, summarized what he called the principal reasons tobacco taxes should not be raised.
“They are regressive and disproportionately burdensome on lower- and middle-income people. They are an unreliable and unsustainable source of revenue. They are a discriminatory tax on a minority of the population. They hurt local businesses and the overall economy, and they encourage cross-border, black market, and Internet purchases,” McCalla said. “And everyone knows that human nature cannot be legislatively controlled,” he added.