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Cigarette Tax

July 25, 1988

Cigarette smokers are a minority, so I suppose Proposition 99 will pass, increasing the state tax on each pack of cigarettes from 10 cents to 35 cents. It is a punitive tax, and I hope voters will take time to ponder the implications, for it is a new and disturbing use of the state's taxing authority: to punish a particular group of people whose personal habits antagonize the majority.

I should resent this tax increase even if the revenues were to go, as the current 10 cents per pack does, into the state's general fund and to the public schools. However, Proposition 99 does something that strikes me as weird. Its sponsors cannot levy the tax--only a duly elected federal, state or local government can levy taxes--but by means of the initiative they have reserved for themselves the apportioning of the revenues raised--70% of the revenues, estimated at $650 million annually, are specifically allocated for health education, medical research and health care, whether exclusively for tobacco-related projects or for general public health, I do not know. If for general public health, I can at least approve the end if not the means.

But these are burdens which should be shouldered by all of us. The general welfare of the people of California should be financed by taxes levied generally. A 25-cent tax increase on cigarettes is unfair, almost vindictive.

Before you vote in November, think about it: a punitive tax, a tax designed to punish, correct and reform, exacted from an unpopular minority; levied by the state, to be sure, but its revenues already allocated by the sponsors of the bill, not by our elected representatives. Proposition 99 deserves careful study.

MARY E. MILLER

Pasadena

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