My Turn: Increasing cigarette tax will destroy more jobs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2011

Imagine a tax that would guarantee a few North Carolina farmers would be put out of business. Imagine a tax that would guarantee some North Carolina factory workers would be out of a job. Imagine a tax that forced jobs out of the state and the country. Is it just me, or does that sound like a bad idea?
Well, we already have such a tax and, if NC House Bill 341 is passed, weíll be increasing that tax by over 200 percent. It sounds a little sinister doesnít it? Well, not if itís a cigarette tax because nobody likes cigarettes except smokers and tax-and-spend politicians. Itís time we looked past the smoke screen of a burning cigarette and into what tobacco represents to our economy. In short, every time tobacco taxes are raised, we eliminate jobs from North Carolina permanently.
Consider the number of people the tobacco industry employs: the farmer, the manufacturer, the purveyor, and those in between. Every time we raise cigarette taxes we force them to lose customers that can no longer afford their products, and you canít offer jobs if you donít have customers. If you want proof that such taxes will cause the loss of jobs, you need look no further than the closed Phillip Morris factory in Concord. A thousand jobs were lost a mere four months after the increase in the federal cigarette tax. Nearly 2,500 jobs have been lost since a wave of other states increased their tobacco taxes in 2007. This only takes into account the manufacturing job loss. Who knows what number of farmers had to switch to a lower profit crop or went bust all together?
And itís not just because the smokers quit smoking. As the price of cigarettes climb, the smoker buys brands that are more affordable or at least maintain the limited budget they have to spend on cigarettes. And where do these cheaper cigarettes originate? India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Columbia. Moreover, many cigarettes still manufactured in the United States are more likely to contain foreign tobacco. In essence, North Carolina jobs forever lost, and people are smoking lower quality foreign cigarettes.
After all the cancer research, the advertising bans, the smoking bans, and the social stigma; it seems to me that if people still want to smoke then we ought to at least at least have the common sense not to destroy our local economy in the process of forcing them to quit. While we may not have the power to control what the federal government inflicts on us, or even the power to prevent other states from putting our industries out of business; shooting ourselves in the foot with a new tobacco tax seems absurd. I firmly hope that House Bill 341 will be put down, and that maybe one day our leadership will see the repercussions of their actions.

John Goforth lives in Kannapolis.
Have a ëMy Turní idea?
ěMy Turnî columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to with ěMy Turnî in the subject line. Include your name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible