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Sun Sentinel: Julio Fuentes: Don’t increase the tobacco tax

Friday, May 31, 2013

Florida’s business community is facing a potential financial burden due to tax proposals being considered on Capitol Hill.

President Obama and some members of Congress are working to fund broad, new government programs at the expense of Florida businesses. One proposal includes a 94 cents-per-pack increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes, which would bring the rate to $1.95 per pack. The “Tobacco Tax and Enforcement Reform Act” legislation would increase the federal excise tax rate on all tobacco products.

Cigarettes are an important source of revenue for retailers, which in turn drive Florida’s economy. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, cigarettes are the top revenue generator for convenience stores nationwide. In fact, cigarettes account for over one-third of all in-store sales revenue.

It was just four years ago that adult tobacco consumers were saddled with the largest federal tobacco tax increase in U.S. history. Since that time, the Congressional Research Service identified cigarette excise taxes as “probably the most regressive of the federal taxes.”

So as the Florida business community works tirelessly to continue on a path of economic recovery, we wonder why Congress would choose to put the financial well-being of our state’s business owners in jeopardy, especially considering that cigarette taxes are an unreliable source of tax revenue.

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