Our View: Spread the burden more evenly

Earlier this week, smokers stocked up to avoid the $1.01 tax that was added to cigarettes Wednesday. The rest of the population breathed a sigh of relief, grateful they would not have to worry about contributing.

The tax is designed to expand health insurance to children whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to afford their own private insurance through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as SCHIP.

With the increased cigarette tax, the plan is aimed to provide federally funded health care to an additional 4 million children. The program currently funds nearly 7 million.

We applaud them for wanting to provide this service to more children. Too many times, children aren’t treated for illnesses or can’t have regular checkups because their parents can’t afford it.

But for a program that reaches such a wide range of the population, the government shouldn’t single out one small sector – in this case, smokers – to pay for it.

If the government were to tax a more widely used item, it might not have to hike the rate up so dramatically. Instead of the 62 cents added to cigarette tax, it might be able to add half – or less than half- of that amount to something else.

It’s always been a trend to add “sin taxes” – making people pay more to buy things like alcohol and tobacco. Sure, we hope the recently increased cigarette tax will motivate people to quit. A Time Magazine article cited supporters of the tax increase saying the measure will stop 2 million kids from starting to smoke and make 1 million adults quit.

If it does that, great. But we have to wonder: Will it?

When Allegheny County in Pennsylvania implemented a poured drink tax in December 2007, people worried that bar patrons would go outside the county to drink to avoid the tax.

What happened was quite the contrary.

The county ended up with an excess amount of tax money, and it is now left debating how to use it.

Though the 10 percent tax was hefty, people didn’t stop drinking. And that’s very likely what could happen with the increase of cigarette tax.

For a sum of money that’s spent toward a good cause and helping such a wide range of the U.S. population, let everyone pitch in a little to take the burden off the few.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.