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Billionaire Pledges $1 Million to Push for Higher Tax on Ecigarettes in California

In today’s world, money talks. If you have a lot of money, you can do practically anything. Just take a look at Donald Trump – a billionaire with zero political experience and now he’s at the top of the Republican polls for the presidential primary elections. This week, a California based billionaire announced that he was going to use his money to push for a hefty new tax on ecigarettes and tobacco products.

Tom Steyer, the liberal hedge fund manager, is well known for throwing globs of money at the progressive causes he supports. Now he’s setting his sights on ecigarettes, making a public pledge to spend a million dollars to change California tax laws. He wants to see the current tobacco tax increased by $2 and his ballot initiative also calls for ecigarettes to be taxed at the same rate as tobacco products.

If Steyer gets his way, California ecig users will see a 70 percent excise fee on all vapor devices and cartridges. In the past, the state’s leaders have shot down initiatives to raise the tobacco tax, but Steyer won’t be dissuaded. The billionaire is determined to use his cash to get the results he wants.

“You can’t sugar-coat it, smoking is deadly,” he told the LA Times. “This initiative aims to save lives and stop teens from ever picking up the deadly tobacco habit in the first place.” It might sound noble, but the initiative would also bring in $1.5 billion each year to the big wigs working in the Sacramento government offices.

Currently, California’s tobacco tax is pretty modest compared to other states, at only 87 cents per pack. The state hasn’t increased this rate since 1998 and yet, Cali has less smokers than most of the country. Last year, only 11.7 percent of adults in California were smokers, compared to 18 percent nationwide.

Despite previous failed attempts to raise the tobacco tax, Steyer and his cronies are confident that they can make it happen this time. Lori Bremner, director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said, “After two decades of inaction by California legislators we really need voters to take this into their own hands.”

But will voters comply? This issue will likely weigh heavily on how Californians vote in this year’s state-level elections. Americans for Tax Reform is already pouncing on this issue and urging voters not to be swayed. The group pointed out that new taxes on ecigarettes have already been implemented in ten states with disastrous results. By raising the prices for ecigs, it makes them less appealing for smokers, minimizing the number of tobacco users who make the switch.

Do you think this big city billionaire is crossing the line by using his cash to manipulate the law? Should ecigs be taxed at the same rate as tobacco cigarettes?

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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