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Cigarettes for Cézanne

Well, not exactly. But when January rolls around, smokers in the greater Cleveland area will be paying a bit more to support arts.

In addition to electing a variety of lawmakers, voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, approved a local ballot initiative that will hike the county's cigarette tax by 1.5 cents per cigarette starting in January.

Cezanne The tax, which will add 30 cents to a  20-cigarette pack, is expected to raise about $20 million a year for 10 years. The money will go to arts and cultural organizations, as well as individual artists. Surely a few of them will be admirers, if not emulators, of the French painter.

The newest tax will be in addition to the existing county assessment of 4.5 cents a pack that runs through mid-2015 to help pay the debt on the Cleveland Browns stadium. These local levies are on top of the state's cigarette tax of $1.25 a pack.

That's much more than I paid when I smoked many, many years ago (yes, I was young and stupid). But $1.25 just gets Ohio 15th place in the state cigarette tax ranking, according to data gathered by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK).

The costliest place to smoke? New Jersey, which charges $2.575 per pack in state tax. Rhode Island, Washington and Michigan also assess $2 or more per pack.

The lowest cigarette taxes are, not surprisingly, collected in traditional tobacco states. The average tax in major tobacco-producing and/or  processing states is just over 26 cents a pack. South Carolina helps keep that average down by assessing only 7 cents a pack.

Closer to home, CTFK says more than 460 local jurisdictions, such as Cuyahoga County, collect their own tobacco taxes. Cook County, Ill., has a $2 per pack tax that, when added to assessments by various cities within its boundaries, makes smoking in the Chicago area quite costly.

Nationally, Uncle Sam imposes a 39-cent per pack federal excise tax on cigarettes.

Ohio opponents: Opponents of the Cuyahoga County cigarette tax argued that, as with all sales taxes, the burden would fall more heavily on poorer Ohio smokers.

In the end, though, the new levy passed with almost 56 percent of the vote. It is believed to be the only cigarette tax that directly funds arts and cultural programs.

Cuyahoga officials expect the state, which will collect the new tax, to send the first cigarette-specific revenues to the county by next April, with the county's first arts grants to be awarded a few months later.

Cigarette_butt_2 Mixed results for other tobacco taxes: Smoking taxes were approved in South Dakota, where voters agreed to an additional tax of 5 cents per cigarette, as well as a tax increase from 10 percent to 35 percent on the wholesale price of other tobacco products, to pay for, among other things, tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

Two tobacco taxes also were approved in Arizona: an additional 1/10th of 1 cent per cigarette to fund smoke-free enforcement initiatives and an additional 4 cents per cigarette to pay for early childhood development and health initiatives.

But the no-new-tobacco-taxes contingent won in California, where voters rejected a call for another 13 cents per cigarette for tobacco control and health care initiatives.

Missouri voters also defeated a constitutional amendment that would have added an additional 4 cents per cigarette tax to pay for health care initiatives and reduce tobacco use.

Cézanne's "Still Life with Plate of Cherries" courtesy of WebMuseum.


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The problem with taxing cigarettes is that you don't discourage cigarette use and you just push more smoking families into poverty. Cigarette use is wrong but cigarette taxes are by their very nature regressive, which is baloney. Why not tax junk food to pay for healthcare initiatives?

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