A Health and Human Services panel (aka, the ubiquitous bureaucratic commission) recommends raising cigarette taxes by $2 per pack – one of the largest tax hikes on the nation\’s poor in memory.

WASHINGTON – It was bad enough when Congress raised the tobacco tax by 14 cents in 1999, but in an excise-tax-gone mad attitude, a federal health commission has proposed a $2 federal tax hike on cigarettes.

The policy, proposed by the 28-member Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health, recommends the $2 tax hike over and above any and all existing federal and state taxes, and could boost the cost of cigarettes in New York City and other high-tax municipalities to an astounding $9.50 per pack. The current federal tax on cigarettes is 39 cents and state tax levels vary from state to state. But who will actually benefit from this tax hike? Definitely not the less-privileged population, says the nation\’s leading taxpayer advocacy organization.

Taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in Washington, said, "This commission\’s recommendations are irresponsible, unfair, and ridiculous. If we start with a cigarette tax to fund anti-tobacco endeavors, what\’s next? – Chocolate taxes for sweet-tooth research? This proposal, unearthed by a hodgepodge of big-government lackeys is unreasonable and absurd," he continued.

Increasing taxes on cigarettes targets a specific population – the lower class, which pays a much higher proportion of excise taxes than the wealthy. It is estimated that the federal government will accrue $28 billion from the tax increase – almost all of which will come from the pockets of the poor – and half of these moneys will be used for anti-tobacco endeavors.

Meanwhile, because federal revenue is fungible, there is no guarantee that the revenues will go toward health-related purposes. Money collected by state governments from settlements with the tobacco companies has largely been spent on closing budget shortfalls from overspending commitments.

"Increasing excise taxes, be they on cigarettes or other goods, is and always will be bad policy. Government should not be in the business of telling people what they should and should not do," continued Norquist.