MySmokersRights made great strides in 2004 by acquiring new members and helping to defeat numerous proposed cigarette tax increases and smoking bans. The effectiveness of MySmokersRights continues to grow as our membership grows.
In 2002, twenty-one states raised cigarette excise taxes an average of 55 cents per pack. Following that disastrous year, MySmokersRights was born and, by the end of 2003, boasted a membership of over 70,000. During the 2003 legislative year, the number of states adopting cigarette tax increases dropped to 15, with an average 33-cent-per-pack increase. In 2004, attempts to increase cigarette taxes failed in 20 states and succeeded in only nine states, with three of those taxes approved by ballot measures in November.
Also in 2004, the tobacco quota buyout bill became federal law without including Food and Drug Administration control over tobacco products, a tremendous victory for all smokers. This achievement might not have been realized without the help and determination of MSR members and smokers everywhere.
We believe MySmokersRights members’ involvement was instrumental in the downward trend of states adopting new cigarette taxes. In 2004 alone, MSR members sent over 20,000 e-mails to their elected officials and local media, an astonishing achievement to say the least. If you think MSR members can’t make a difference, think again. Let’s keep up the good work and make sure the downward trends continue through 2005 and beyond.
Cigarette Tax Increases Failed in 20 States in 2004
In 2004, a total of 33 states proposed 143 bills to increase cigarette taxes. MySmokersRights members’ resistance to tax increases was apparent this year because nine states increased smoker taxes, an improvement of six states over 2003.
State increases per pack passed in 2004:
Alabama 26 cents
Alaska $1 over three years (60 cents on 1/1/05, 20 cents on 7/1/06 and 20 cents more on 7/1/07)
Colorado 64 cents
Michigan 75 cents
New Jersey 35 cents
Oklahoma 80 cents
Rhode Island 75 cents
Virginia 27.5 cents
Even in the face of these increases, smokers made a difference. E-mails sent by MySmokersRights members helped reduce the amount of taxes passed in Alabama (from 40 cents to 26 cents), Michigan (from 81 cents to 75 cents), New Jersey (from 45 cents to 35 cents) and Virginia (from 97.5 cents to 27.5 cents).
Making a difference at the local level: For the first time in Richard Daley’s 16-year tenure as mayor of Chicago, the mayor failed to get a unanimous vote for his budget from the Board of Aldermen. Again, MySmokersRights members pounded the mayor’s office with e-mails. We’re making incremental progress, but faced with a huge budget deficit, the mayor pushed through a 200% increase in the cigarette tax, in addition to increased sales taxes, parking fees and fines, entertainment taxes, hotel taxes, natural gas taxes and a special tax on tires.
What’s in Store for 2005?
Several states are experiencing budget problems even though the economy is improving. Legislators with fresh terms may be more inclined to pass tax increases now that the elections are behind them. You can be assured that budget deficits will not go away, and many states will target smokers with tax increases to foot the bill. At this point, we predict the biggest threats to smoker incomes are from the following states:
Idaho (increase of up to 43 cents per pack or $4.30 per carton)
Illinois (increase of up to 50 cents per pack or $5 per carton)
Iowa (increase of up to $1 cents per pack or $10 per carton)
Kentucky (increase of up to 70 cents per pack or $7 per carton)
Louisiana (increase of up to 50 cents per pack or $5 per carton)
Maine (increase of up to 50 cents per pack or $5 per carton)
Massachusetts (increase of up to 50 cents per pack or $5 per carton)
Minnesota (increase of up to 50 cents per pack or $5 per carton)
Mississippi (increase of up to $1 per pack or $10 per carton)
New Hampshire (increase of up to 15 cents per pack or $1.50 per carton)
North Carolina (increase of up to 25 cents per pack or $2.50 per carton)
Ohio (increase of up to 75 cents per pack or $7.50 per carton)
Oregon (increase of up to 45 cents per pack or $4.50 per carton)
Texas (increase of up to $1 per pack or $10 per carton)
Utah (increase of up to 25 cents per pack or $2.50 per carton)
Vermont (unknown amount)
Washington (increase of up to 50 cents per pack or $5 per carton)
Although additional states may attempt to increase smoker taxes in 2005, MySmokersRights’ commitment to you will remain. When legislators need to hear from smokers on unfair cigarette tax increases, we will let you know. We will continue to provide you a convenient way to contact your elected officials to let them know how unfair it is to single out a minority of citizens who smoke to pay for issues and problems that affect everyone.
In addition in 2005, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Utah and Washington are expected to consider bills that will seriously restrict or outright ban smoking in most public places — restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, pool halls and workplaces. Many cities and counties are expected to consider some form of smoking restrictions as well. Again, we will keep you informed when the time is right to contact your political representatives at state or local levels.
Our continued success depends heavily upon your participation and the growth of MySmokersRights membership. If you have friends or family members concerned about smokers’ rights, tell them about MySmokersRights.com and encourage them to visit and join.
Remember to use your personal Web page of legislators provided to you when you signed up with MySmokersRights to contact any or all of your legislators on any issue at any time.
Thank you for using MySmokersRights to protect the rights of adult smokers.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company