Tax to Save

Dear Governor Crist:

I know you have built your career opposing tax increases, so I particularly want to thank you for raising the taxes on cigarettes to help balance the Florida budget and pay off the looming deficit. Goodness knows we can use all the help we can get. You had good company. Every Republican in the state Senate voted for it, their statewide political aspirations and “no new taxes” pledges notwithstanding.

On Wednesday, the cigarette tax here in Florida will quadruple, rising a dollar to $1.34 per pack. That pack of smokes will now cost at least $5.

“I view it more as a health issue than a tax issue,” Governor Crist (R-FL) said in the Orlando Sentinel. “Ronald Reagan used to say if you want to kill something, tax it. It wouldn’t be bad if we killed smoking. It would save a lot of lives.”

As of July 1, Florida’s new cigarette tax is $1.34 per pack. Florida’s cigarette tax has remained unchanged for decades. The increase means this state leaps from fourth-lowest in the nation to bumping out Pennsylvania for twentieth spot. The legislature expects that extra $1 tax to generate more than $900 million a year.

Five bucks a day, up in smoke.

Governor, your keen action has had the beneficial side effect you wanted. My next door neighbor, Henryk, has bought his last carton of cigarettes. “I’m too cheap to pay $50 a carton,” Henk said. “I just won’t pay it.”

Now, really, Henk isn’t nearly as cheap as I am. I quit in 1976 when the nation celebrated the bicentennial and cigarettes jumped to fifty cent a pack. That wasn’t for the (w)rapper. That wasn’t for the excise tax. That was the price. Imagine paying FIVE DOLLARS for a carton of the little cigars I preferred. I’m not sorry I quit. Even starting with the now infinitesimal price I paid a third of a century ago, I figure I have saved more than $30,000 dollars or the price of a couple of small cars.

Henk says he’s done with tobacco.

He’s going back to pot.

It’s cheaper.