Editorial: Keep lookout for more ‘sin’ tax on smoking

There’s enough medical evidence about the harmful effects of smoking to give anyone pause before lighting up, but deciding what’s good for you and what’s bad for you is your job, not that of the government.

A group of North Carolina Democrats introduced last week a bill that would increase the state’s tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.

The additional levy would raise the cigarette tax to $1.45 just two years after a 10 cents per pack tax hike.

Supporters of the bill say the higher price would keep teen-agers from taking up smoking and reduce the number of adults who puff.

Who’s to say whether the increase would indeed create a barrier to purchase, especially by teens?

Peer influence and group acceptance can easily trump a dollar bill with teens, many of whom have jobs that give them disposable income of their own.

As for adults, if they haven’t heeded the medical warnings and social stigma now associated with smoking, will they quit over a higher price? It’s human nature to find the money to purchase an item when it’s important enough.

What anti-smoking proponents really want is to make smoking and the use of tobacco products illegal. They know they’ll never get that through the Legislature in one giant step, so they work year in and year out to chip away at the individual’s freedom to choose.

In New Mexico and Texas it is illegal to smoke in restaurants. Even if the restaurant owner wants to cater to customers who smoke, the state says, “No way.”

This year, the anti-smoking crowd in North Carolina has added another temptation. They calculate that the additional tax would generate about $300 million for the state to spend. That’s a number that could attract the attention — and the votes — of lawmakers who say they are hard-pressed to cover the state’s expenses with current revenue.

Republicans control both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly this year and their leaders say they have no plans to raise taxes, including those on tobacco that the Democrats have proposed.

Keep a close eye on those “plans.” Republicans have a history of liking “sin” taxes. If they want the money badly enough, the “no new taxes” pledge might be just blowing smoke.