Light 'em up | Arkansas Blog

Light 'em up



Harmonic convergence today.

Spokesmen for Altria, the company once known as Philip Morris, flew in from Richmond, Va., to talk to media about the company's opposition to Gov. Beebe's 56-cent-pack increase in cigarette taxes to pay for a range of health initiatives.

Their broad objections are familiar: Taxing a habit that is declining; targeting a small portion of the population for a broad benefit; the prospect of sending border state business from Arkansas merchants to neighborhing states; encouragement of bootlegging to avoid taxes.

To which I say: If a higher tax discourages smoking and its costly side effects even more, good.

Because they arrived the afternoon a new federal study ranked Ark. No. 7 in death rate from smoking. We're 13th lowest in taxing smokes.

I offered a tradeoff to the tobacco reps I'd consider -- a slash in the proposed tax for their commitment to ban smoking in the public places still excepted under Arkansas's huge loophole. Ha ha, they said. I was only half joking. Neither of the PR guys smoked, by the way.

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