That is not a typo.
A group of Democrat senators, none of whom are particularly friendly to law-abiding consumers, have introduced a bill (S.174) that would hike taxes by as much as 1,121 percent on some tobacco products. According to feisty New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who will be a nonagenarian next year, the bill is necessary because some tobacco companies are “gaming the system.”
Gaming what system, Frank?
Well, back in 2009, one of the first bills President Obama signed was a costly reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). To finance the expansion of this nice sounding program (which also covers some adults!), Democrat lawmakers increased taxes on certain tobacco products. All together, the tax hikes were supposed to confiscate an additional $72.1 billion from the American people over the next decade, money that disproportionately comes from the poor.
According to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, some tobacco companies are “changing the labels on their products to avoid paying the higher tax.” CQ News reports Durbin is relying on a Government Accountability Office study that found “manufacturers are seeking to tweak and repackage products to create tobacco products that qualify for the lower tax rates on large cigars and pipe tobacco.”
Companies are not the only ones responding to the intentionally punitive tax increases. Last year, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal expressed disgust that “Declines in cigarette smoking among our youth are only buffered by increases in other forms of tobacco use.”
For those of us who live in the real world, this should come as no surprise. What may be surprising is the proposed solution.
The proposed bill would increase taxes on pipe tobacco by 1,121 percent, smokeless chewing tobacco would increase by 968 percent and smokeless snuff would increase by 789 percent. Taxes on regular and premium cigars could increase by as much as 151 percent. While that may seem like a relative bargain, that 2009 law increased excise taxes on “large” by 700 percent.
For those who love freedom or a fine cigar on a cool summer evening, the Blumenthal-Durbin-Lautenberg bill is not the only threat. There is renewed concern the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may capture premium cigars in its regulatory dragnet.