Here is something people should understand about State Senator Mary Caferro’s proposal to fund senior care by raising the state tobacco tax by $1.50 a pack.

Montana’s 150,000 adult smokers already pay about $4 a pack in taxes and tax-equivalent costs thanks to the efforts of the Health Mafia (a mercenary joint venture between the anti-tobacco lobby and the governmental power to tax) over the last 20 years. Specifically, two state tobacco tax increases, one federal tobacco tax increase, and the passed-through costs of the tobacco lawsuit settlement, which is paid by customers and ends up in state coffers.

For the smoker, that $4 is 60 percent of the retail price, reflects the equivalent of a 900 percent tax rate increase since 1998, and costs a two-pack-a-day smoker about $3,000 a year.

But for the Health Mafia, it’s a 180 percent windfall profit extracted from an addicted customer base. Big Tobacco, which does all the work, only gets about a tenth as much.

If Caferro’s proposal succeeds, the numbers all go up. This is a racket that would make Al Capone jealous.

So pay attention, Mary. It isn’t tobacco that put Grandma in a nursing home. She just got old.

If we need to find new money to provide for her, it is sleazy, lazy and cowardly to lay that burden on one marginalized subgroup of the population. It should be borne generally by everyone who hopes to one day get old too.

Greg Caffrey

Helena

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