Broadening the Definition of “Cigarette for Tax Purposes

S.372 broadens the definition of “cigarette,” increasing the weight limitation from three pounds or less of tobacco per thousand to four and a half pounds per thousand. The new definition excludes cigarettes wrapped completely in tobacco leaf and that do not have a filter (cigars), and includes 0.325 ounces of tobacco or tobacco mixture for making one’s own cigarettes.

The bill also directs the Director of the Department of Revenue to investigate any barriers to enforcing and collecting the cigarette tax, develop recommendations for how to deal with those barriers, and to submit a report to the General Assembly containing the investigation results and the Director’s recommendations.

This is an attempt to extract revenue from cigarette smokers who may currently be avoiding the state’s 57 cent excise tax on cigarettes by rolling their own cigarettes or purchasing other cigarette like items which don’t fall under the current tax. Expanding the tax may be an attempt to raise revenue, discourage smoking, or both. Whatever the motivation, it is unjust. The state should not be attempting to manipulate the personal choices of individuals’ that affect no one but themselves. Nor does a state government contemplating a $26 billion budget need more revenue from its citizens.

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