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A Call for Common Sense

A newly published report from the U.S. Government Accountabiltiy Office, aptly entitled “Illicit Tobacco,” claims that the ever-rising tobacco taxes lead to “opportunities and incentives for illicit trade.” The report named several instances in which distributors, particularly in California, were caught importing tobacco products and selling them without paying state excise taxes.

I know that the immediate response from the anti-tobacco mob is going to be a call for stepping up enforcement. But couldn’t the money and resources that would be required to do so be used for something more productive, like curtailing the smuggling of actual illegal drugs, rather than completely legal ones?

Aside from the purported “don’t do this, it’s bad for you” angle, a big motivation behind raising tobacco taxes is raising money for the state. But this can’t possibly be effective if vendors are evading these taxes, and the money it would take to stop them could very well exceed what they’d be earning from taxes in the first place, if you can call that money “earned.” I just hope that if and when lawmakers take this report into account, they realize that they’d be wasting time and money if they started going after tobacco tax evasion more actively. It’s hard to argue with the fact that as a country, we have much bigger things to worry about.

On that note, I’m going to go home and enjoy a stogie (specifically, the Rocky Patel Edge Maduro that’s been resting in the humidor since October), maybe even two, and try not to think about the blatant hypocrisies that we face every day as smokers. Everyone have a great weekend, and if you feel like doing some light reading, the entire 27-page GAO report can be found here.