So Gov. Mark Parkinson's proposed cigarette-tax hike might raise less than the $52 million projected annually, because it would spur some smokers to cut back or quit. Studies suggest that a statewide smoking ban would further deter smokers.
When did it become a bad thing to want Kansas to have fewer smokers and lower smoking-related health care costs?
Less revenue than expected is still more revenue than the state would see otherwise, and less smoking would mean a healthier Kansas.
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It's of greater concern how a higher cigarette tax in Kansas might affect businesses if it propels smokers out of state or onto the Internet and tribal reservations to buy their tobacco products. A statewide ban also would trump Wichita's weak ban, probably leaving local businesses stuck with costly smoking rooms they could no longer use.
But Sonny Glennon of Wichita's Scotch & Sirloin can't be the only businessman in the state who knew a statewide ban probably would come eventually because "this is something that's nationwide." The trend got a push when the U.S. surgeon general declared in 2006 that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
In his State of the State address, Parkinson noted that North Carolina is among the 24 states with public smoking bans. "If North Carolina, the largest tobacco-producing state in the country, can enact a public smoking ban, surely we can do it in Kansas," he said.
And as Parkinson has argued about Missouri's "archaic" cigarette tax of 17 cents a pack: "We should not allow Missouri's very poor public policy to impact the decisions that we make."
Kansas charges 79 cents per pack; raising its tax by 55 cents would bring the state to the national state average of $1.34 per pack. Oklahoma taxes smokers $1.03 per pack.
With tobacco-related illnesses responsible each year for the deaths of at least 3,900 Kansans and a $927 million cost to taxpayers, lawmakers should pass a tax hike that, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, would get 9,000 adults to stop smoking and prevent 16,000 teens from starting.
And "passing a statewide smoking ban would be like putting $5 million back into the economy if it prevents 100 heart attacks a year," Jason Eberhart-Phillips, KDHE's director of health, told a Topeka crowd Friday.
There may be reasons to resist the tax hike, but its iffy ability to raise revenue isn't among them. Defenders of the once-unassailable freedom to smoke are seeing that argument falter, too, under the weight of data showing the dangers of not only being a smoker but sharing air with one.
Opponents will have to come up with some new and better excuses — or, better yet, get the legislative session off to a strong start by passing both of Parkinson's anti-smoking initiatives.