The anti-cigar zealots are at it again, this time in Maryland.
The Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative is trying to get the state to increase the cigar tax from 15% of the wholesale price to 65% of the wholesale price.
According to a report by HometownAnnapolis.com, a new state study found that teenagers are “increasingly reaching for flavored mini-cigars” and that the group thinks they need to be taxed at the same rate as cigarettes.
Bill Spann, CEO of the International Premium Cigars & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) told the website the truth – that this push for legislative change a “misguided” way to shore up government coffers disguised as an anti-smoking campaign.
“There is a fundamental right in this country for the small businessmen and women we represent to sell a legal product at a fair profit without undue government interference,” said Bill Spann, CEO of The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, in a statement quoted by the website.
“There is a similar fundamental right for American citizens of legal age to make an informed, conscious choice to enjoy these fine, artisan products,” Spann said.
Rome Zaffaroni, owner of the Annapolis Cigar Company, told HometownAnnapolis.com that “the nanny state is at it again. They (lawmakers) do this every session,” Zaffaroni said. “That’s my position: They’re insane. Either make tobacco illegal and compensate me for my business and get rid of an industry that helped build Maryland’s history, or live and let live. We’re not an ATM machine.”
Zaffaroni told the site that he objects to the current 15 percent tax on cigars, which is higher than the newly raised nine percent tax on alcohol. Last session, lawmakers hiked the alcohol tax for the first time in 38 years. “I’d bend down and kiss the legislature for that tax,” Zaffaroni added.
Vincent DeMarco, president of the MCHI, said that state Sens. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery County, and Verna L. Jones-Rodwell, D-Baltimore, have signed on as sponsors of legislation that includes the tax, which would generate about $30 million annually.
Those revenue projections often fall far short of their projections, as consumers take their business out of state and generate tax revenue for other governments.
Cigar rights adovcates are urged to contact both Sens. Forehand and Jones-Rodwell, as well as their own state Senator to oppose the tax, while also contacting the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and telling them to leave premium cigars alone from their nanny-state tactics.
The MCHI can be reached through their website, or via mail or in person at 2600 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 21218. You can phone them at 410-235-9000 or 866-433-8451, fax them at 410-235-8963, or reach them via Facebook and Twitter – @HealthyMaryland.
Stay up to date on what’s happening with cigars by following Patrick on Twitter – @PHXCigarGuy – or by subscribing to the column via e-mail or adding it to your RSS reader.