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.