Lansing, Michigan (PRWEB) March 20, 2009
Michigan legislators may be having a love-hate relationship when it comes to tobacco, suggests the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association whose majority of more than 2,000 members are mom-and-pop smoke shop owners and small-business manufacturers and distributors of premium cigars, pipes, fine tobaccos and accessories.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. The federal program is exclusively funded by taxes on tobacco products. For example, those tax increases took cigarette taxes up more than $10 per carton and roll-your-own tobacco from about $1.10 per pound to $24.78 per pound - a 2,253 percent increase.
Some Michigan legislators now want to add to those increased taxes by doubling the state's excise tax rate on other tobacco products - from 32 percent of the manufacturer's wholesale price to 64 percent. At the same time, other Michigan lawmakers are seeking to ban smoking throughout the state following a contentious battle over such bans in last year's legislative session.
"It is incomprehensible how some Michigan legislators can love and hate one product so much that they propose some 22 percent of their constituents should suffer by paying more for those products while having fewer places to enjoy them," said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR. Most recent industry statistics indicate that 22 percent of the adult population of Michigan are smokers.
McCalla pointed out that thousands of jobs are at stake as are hundreds of small businesses like cigar stores, bars and restaurants and that secondhand smoke is not the problem that anti-smoking forces make it out to be.
"The Federal Reserve Bank used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to prove that jobs are lost and businesses suffer under legislated smoking bans. In addition, the safe levels of secondhand smoke established for businesses by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration - OSHA - are far above the air quality generally found in Michigan restaurants and bars," McCalla said.
McCalla's advice to Michigan legislators is to further cut the state budget or find new tax money elsewhere while turning down efforts to force a statewide smoking ban.
"It should be left up to individual business owners to decide whether or not they allow smoking on their premises. Their employees and customers can then decide whether or not to work there or patronize them. The bottom line is that, although nothing happens to anyone if he or she gets an incidental whiff of secondhand smoke, if you don't want to smell smoke, don't go into an establishment that allows smoking."