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Taxing tobacco: Making the state fatter

April 10. 2013 5:49PM

Advocates of raising New Hampshire's cigarette tax say it must be done so the state can devote the new revenue to health care programs. Have any of these people ever read the state budget?

It is a common plea of tax-hikers: If we raise X tax, we can use the money to fund programs and services directly related to the taxed item or activity. So it always is with tobacco taxes. We are told that if we raise them the state will have more money to spend on initiatives dedicated to improving public health, such as smoking-cessation services.

In real life, the connections seldom are made. New Hampshire's beer tax was supposed to fund roadside cleanup. It doesn't. The Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment is supposed to get 5 percent of the proceeds from sales at state liquor stores. It doesn't. All of the revenue from the beer tax and liquor and wine sales goes straight into the general fund.

By law, the Land and Community Heritage and Investment Program (LCHIP) is funded by a $25 tax on real estate transactions. But year after year legislators suspend the law and take the money for other uses.

Revenue from higher cigarette taxes will not go to smoking cessation programs or other health care services. It will be spent on whatever legislators feel like spending it on, and that will vary with each legislative session. Raising this tax will not make Granite Staters healthier. It will just make the state richer.

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