Bush's Concern for the Poor Shines Through on Cigarette Tax

Poverty Brand CigsThe Senate Committee on Finance by a vote of 17-4 last Friday approved a hike in the federal cigarette tax to expand health insurance coverage for children from low-income families, but President Bush has vowed to veto the measure. Defending Bush's position, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a July 17 letter to Committee members that "the proposed legislation would increase taxes on low-income taxpayers as a way to fund health coverage for low-income individuals." The argument that a cigarette tax is a disproportionate tax on the poor literally comes out of Philip Morris' playbook. The argument appears on Page 14 of PM's 1992 "Great American Smoker's Manual", a publication PM created to arm pro-tobacco forces with arguments to fight public health policies it doesn't like, like cigarette taxes, clean indoor air laws and advertising restrictions. The Bush Administration's extensive ties to the tobacco industry make suspect the Administration's sudden apparent concern for the poor. Also unmentioned is the fact that paying a cigarette tax is completely optional, unlike taxes on gasoline, clothing or property.