Following the grand tobacco settlement with the states, ostensibly to be used on cessation programs and other health-related goals, what's really happened? Massachusetts is instructive in that regard:
“Roughly 99 percent of all the tobacco dollars that come into the state are used for something else,” said Stephen Shestakofsky, recently retired executive director of Tobacco Free Massachusetts, an anti-tobacco advocacy group. He was referring to the nearly $254 million in tobacco-related legal awards given to Massachusetts in 2012. More than $561 million in tobacco taxes was also collected, bringing the state’s total tobacco tally to just over $815 million, the CDC reports.
Of that $815 million in tobacco money, only about $4.2 million will be spent in 2013 on smoking cessation and prevention programs in Massachusetts, state health officials said. Since there is no requirement to spend either revenue from the state’s tobacco taxes or the millions awarded annually as part of a 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and four of the nation’s largest tobacco companies, the remaining funds will go into the state’s general fund to pay for other cash-strapped programs, often unrelated to smoking.
In releasing his proposed state budget last week, Gov. Deval Patrick called for a $1 per pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax that is projected to raise $118.5 million annually. An additional $18.54 million in revenue would come from raising taxes on other related products, such as snuff and chewing tobacco.
Most states, including Oregon, have likewise diverted proceeds from the tobacco settlement, along with millions in tobacco tax receipts, into projects and programs that have nothing to do with public health. Whyever would that be? Imagine the financial impacts upon the states if everybody actually stopped using tobacco products! They'd have little choice but to actively support other forms of revenue-enhancing addictions, as their income streams depend upon hooked lower and middle-income people to (ahem) cough up that additional nearly $1 billion annually.
And a soda-pop tax ain't gonna raise that kind of dough. It's one thing to bump up the tax on a pack of cigarettes by a buck in order to raise another $118 million annually, but that only works because the victims of the tax will pay what it takes to get their fix.
Until, of course, the bootleggers show up.