New Hampshire may finally realize what NTU and others have been saying for a while now: high cigarette taxes are not good public policy. The powerful NH House Committee on Ways and Means is considering a bill, HB 156, which would cut the cigarette tax by 10 cents and the wholesale tax on other tobacco products by 17 percent, reducing a regressive tax burden on the poor and small businesses. Earlier today, I squeezed into a packed committee room at the Legislative Office Building in Concord to testify in person in favor of this legislation. You can find my written letter to the committee here.
As I stated in my testimony, "Since the poor are more likely to smoke, New Hampshire’s low-income families, especially those who live in the depressed North Country, have disproportionately felt the pinch of cigarette tax hikes over the years. A 2007 study by the Heritage Foundation showed that more than one-fourth of people who smoke live below the federal poverty line and another quarter of all smokers live within 100-200 percent of the poverty line. Reducing the cigarette tax will help alleviate the tax burden on these families, who struggling to get by in a tough economy."
Reducing the tax burden on cigarettes will not only help low-income families, but also help retailers, which will benefit the state in general. As I mentioned earlier today, "Sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products also comprise a substantial portion of business for small retailers. The National Association of Convenience Stores reports that cigarettes account for about one out of every three dollars of total sales nationwide at their establishments. Reversing some of the harmful tobacco tax hikes of recent years could help these businesses attract some of the consumer activity that may have migrated across state lines to stores in Maine and elsewhere."
Odds for passing the legislation looked good at the hearing today. The bill's sponsor is the chairman of the House Revenue Committee, which writes the state budget. Plus, the bill has attracted a number of consponsors. But only you can guarantee this bill passes by contacting your New Hampshire state legislators and urging them to support this long-overdue legislation. Click here to find your Representative.