Attention Maryland Smokers: Buy Your Cigarettes Before Midnight

December 31, 2007

As we’ve reported before, Maryland’s cigarette tax is doubling to $2 per pack as of Tuesday. The Washington Examiner lays out the math:

“Sales are going to drop all over Maryland, I’m sure,” said Ragu Nanthan, an employee at TJ Beer Wine and Liquors on New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park. The regular price for a pack of Marlboros at the shop ran $4.97 on Friday. On Tuesday, that cost will spike to $6.35, he said.

Nationally, the price per pack of cigarettes is expected to hit $4.63 on Tuesday, said Vince Willmore, vice president for communications for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In D.C., the average is expected to be $4.64. In Virginia, smokers will pay an average $3.84 per pack.

So, two cartons, with 20 packs and 400 cigarettes, would sell for $127 in Maryland but only $77 in Virginia. Our previous report on illegal cigarette smuggling showed it was on the rise because of high cigarette taxes, and in this case, such an illegal transaction could net the smuggler a lucrative $50, or 65 percent profit. Plus there’s online smuggling too.

The Examiner article also quotes a citizens health group that advocated the initiative as a way to “help deter as many as 50,000 children from becoming smokers.” But why stop there-banning cigarettes would stop even more children from becoming smokers. The group also is happy that the money raised will go for general health care programs, but again, why hit smokers with a suspiciously round dollar increase to fund general state spending?

Of course, the real reason for the cigarette tax hike is that smokers are a politically unfavored minority that can loaded with higher taxes to fund unrelated government spending programs for the majority. So too with taxing alcohol to fund public transit, taxing bottled water to fund general spending, and taxing video games to fund juvenile detention facilities. And that’s just in the last week.

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