The Oregonian ran a couple of good op/eds recently on proposed state tax hikes on beer and tobacco. The Pigouvian case for higher taxes on alcohol is arguably stronger than that for additional taxes on cigarettes, but opposition to the former tax is much more vocal. Elizabeth Hovde notes the hypocrisy:
[…] when it comes to cigarettes, a lot of Oregonians — perhaps many of the same Oregonians fighting a beer tax increase — insist on hefty taxation. They rail on about how smokers’ unhealthy choices need to be charged (paying no attention to the cost savings associated with smokers dying younger than the healthy population). The nonsmoking majority has gone so far as supporting a law that forbids smoking in private businesses, even if people never have to frequent a smoky joint and even if no wait staff ever has to serve a smoke-filled area.
While beer fans have organized vanpools to public hearings in Salem using Facebook and Twitter (the group No New Oregon Beer Tax on Facebook boasted 3,117 members as of Wednesday), Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s idea to put a sizable increase on a pack of cigarettes is sitting pretty well with the public.
Right now the tax on a pack of smokes is $1.18. Kulongoski and other lawmakers want to add on another 60 cents per pack and levy a 25 percent increase in other tobacco taxes. Where is the outrage? Those who belly up to smoke-free bars ought to think about the double standard.
Oregon has a lot more beer drinkers than it does smokers. For that reason alone, piling onto the unpopular smoking minority is more likely to succeed than increasing the state’s beer tax, which is one of the lowest in the nation (not that I’m supporting that tax either, mind you).
The second column is a guest piece by Steve Buckstein, making an additional case against the tobacco tax hike. Read it here.
Cato’s Tom Firey and I wrote about similar tax proposals in 2007 for the Journal-Sentinel.