Cigarette Smokers Burned By New Tax; Cigar Aficionados Blow Celebratory Rings
|While cigarette smokers will now pay a dollar per pack more, the legislature gave the cigar industry a break.|
A new state-wide dollar-per-pack tax on cigarettes and smokeless and pipe tobacco starts today. The stated goal from the legislature is to encourage smokers to stop. If not for their own health, for the health of bank account. T
he tax will also raise an estimated $950 million for health care, according to Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, sponsor of the bill.
Cigars, though, are exempt from the new tax. This is because, the logic goes, cigar smokers would be less inclined to stop over a one dollar tax. And because cigar rolling--and smoking--has long been part of Florida culture. And of course because Florida has an old fragile cigar-rolling industry (pictured here circa 1947) with not-so-fragile lobbyists.
Around our office, at least one cigarette smoker, when reminded the new tax begins today, noted, "yeah, I really have to quit soon."
Wait, did that encouragement from the state to stop smoking actually work?
Pat Macabi, owner of Macabi Cigar Bar in Fort Lauderdale, has mixed feelings on the new laws.
While Macabi is pleased cigars aren't being taxed like "dirty cigarettes," he says the system is too convoluted and confusing for retailers.
"But they're right not to tax cigar smokers as much," he told me. "A cigar smoker doesn't smoke all the time, as much as cigarettes, and he wouldn't stop just because of a tax if he loves cigars. It would just hurt us all."
A Quinnipiac University poll published in January showed Florida voters favored this exact tax increase.
Interestingly enough, when I asked a few people buying cigarettes at a gas station last night what they thought of the new tax, several people told me they'd probably start buying smokes by the carton--to try to save money in volume.