Thank you for smoking

The Marlboro man wouldn’t be very happy living in Wisconsin.

Not only did smoking get banned from Eau Claire public places last year, but now taxes on cigarettes may see another increase in the state.

Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget will increase the state tax 75 cents on a pack of cigarettes, which will raise the total state tax on smokers to $3.02, according to a Feb. 17 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

Last year, Doyle increased taxes by $1 and offered new state assistance to help smokers quit. The previous increase doubled state tax collections on cigarettes in the first 11 months – in comparison with the same period of time in 2007 – to $543.2 million, according to the article. The article also mentioned that the state cut down an estimated $480 million in smoking-related health-care costs.

The tax may be worth it at this point, but it is not fair to target only smokers. Politicians need to put a limit on what they are going to tax. They can’t increase taxes every two years for one thing, even if the smokers who are not worried about the tax increase will put money back in the economy.

From the revenue they received from last year’s tax increase, it looks like an easy way to get money. There are other ways to help people stop smoking. If politicians want to create disincentives for smokers so they quit, why not just make tobacco illegal?

The smoking ban in restaurants and bars has been in place since last year, so not even secondhand smoke is a problem in public. Smokers can’t hurt others for their habit, but it is unfortunate the state can only make money at the expense of an addiction.

If the tax increase is only done with the intentions of making more revenue, and “reduce smoking” is just an excuse, then the tax is not worth it.

But it’s done in the spirit of health concerns and public safety, then hopefully the tax will continue the trend set by the previous tax increase two years ago.