Smokers Continue to Subsidize Non-Smokers

Published September 10, 2008

Dear Editor:

Wyoming’s Department of Health (DOH), in its efforts to rally the troops by vilifying the legal act of smoking, is very provocative in its claims … but independent statistics can be a stubborn thing (September 5, “Report: State loses millions due to tobacco use”).

One key statistic DOH fails to mention in its report is that the state collects more than $46 million in excise taxes and tobacco settlement money each year. And that figure doesn’t include other taxes that help fund government and Medicare programs.

In a study analyzing the costs smokers impose on “society,” Harvard University Professor Kip Viscusi reported, “excise taxes on cigarettes equal or exceed the medical care costs associated with smoking.” Viscusi found the medical cost of smoking was 23.6 cents per pack; Wyoming’s cigarette tax is more than double that.

The DOH report has little to do with protecting public health and more to do with making headlines and fattening government’s piggy bank. As government’s addiction to cigarette taxes continues to increase and smoking rates decline, smokers will continue to subsidize non-smokers.

John Nothdurft ([email protected]) is the budget and tax legislative specialist for The Heartland Institute.