Thursday, February 12, 2004

What you say ... on Ky. tobacco tax

Kentucky's new governor, Ernie Fletcher, says he would be willing to raise the state's cigarette tax to help cover a projected $302 million budget deficit. At 3 cents a pack, Kentucky's cigarette tax is the second lowest in the nation.

Gov. Fletcher and other politicians are foolish if they do not look at Gov. Bob Taft's mistake in Ohio. Ohio's cigarette tax revenue decreased after Taft's ill-advised tax increase. Many Kentucky cigarette sales are to out-of-state residents, including Ohio and Indiana. Kentucky consumers will simply find an alternate and cheaper source for their tobacco. It is irresponsible to cut income taxes and personal property taxes on all residents and try to replace those revenues by increasing the cigarette tax. It is unfair to put this burden on the backs of smokers, especially those in middle- to lower-income households.

David Crowe, Greenhills

The American Cancer Society believes that increasing Kentucky's tobacco tax is not just a good first step - it's a giant leap toward saving the lives of our youth. At the current tax rate, 21.5 percent of Kentucky middle school students and 37.4 percent of high school students smoke. A tax increase could deter youth smoking by 15 percent.

Anne M. Maxfield, Executive director, American Cancer Society, Mid-South Division, Northern Kentucky

As a physician, I see the effects of smoking on my patients every day. I also see how smoking dramatically increases the cost of providing medical care to all Kentuckians. I have heard arguments that a tobacco tax unfairly taxes the poor. The poor, who seem to have money to buy cigarettes, are disproportionately uninsured or on Medicaid. If this segment of the populace sees fit to spend their money on a product that destroys their health and increases medical costs, then why not impose a tax to recover some of that money and invest it into the care they will inevitably need?

Dr. Paul Spellman, Burlington

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