Initiated Measure 2, otherwise known as the "Tobacco Tax" has been getting a lot of press lately especially in the "Letters to the Editors" sections of our newspapers.
Increasing the tax on tobacco in South Dakota (proposition No. 2) should be a no-brainer. Most people who smoke wish they could stop but have trouble doing so because tobacco is probably the most addicting substance legally available. Keeping an estimated 11,000 kids from ever starting the habit is enough to argue strongly in favor of this tax. Once they start, many are unable to fight the addictive nature of the habit in order to quit.
Listening to letters such as this would surely make one think that this measure is a "no-brainer" and in a perfect world, getting youngsters and people in general to quit smoking would be a great thing.
Supporters point to the increased cost caused by the tax leading to young people not being able to afford to start smoking and the increased tax revenue being used to fund tobacco prevention and reduction programs. What they fail to publicize is just how the majority of the tax revenue will be distributed.
The first $30 million generated goes directly into the state’s general fund for use however our legislators see fit to spend it with the next portion up to $5 million going to prevention and education programs and finally any funds generated above the initial $35 million going to other funds including the property tax reduction fund, the education enhancement trust fund, and the health care trust fund and herein lies the problem with this tax.
With the vast majority of all revenue generated going into the general fund, a small group of people made up of for the most part low to middle income residents, will now be paying a tax used to fund state programs. If this sounds familiar, it is. South Dakota has another ballot initiative, Initiated Measure 7 which is an attempt to repeal video lottery, a law that does the exact same thing.
I am all for smokers financing programs that attempt to keep the young from smoking and for funding stop smoking programs and heath care costs related to their addiction, but using the majority of the revenue for non-smoking related programs is nothing more than an unfair tax on the people that for the most part cannot afford to pay it.
Put the tax revenue where it belongs, into anti-smoking related programs and then this would be a "no-brainer". Unfortunately it is nothing more than another tax that effectively gives those in Pierre more money to spend on whatever pet project they want.