The General Assembly's assault on cigarettes is only partly due to health consciousness. In this lean budget year, cigarette taxes are a good source of additional revenue. But there are also other good reasons to place a financial penalty on smoking.
Making cigarettes more expensive will inevitably decrease consumption. That's bad news for the tobacco industry, which is why it is so vehemently opposing higher taxes on its products, but it's very good news in other ways. A sales tax on cigarettes, approved yesterday by the House Ways and Means Committee, is likely to have its greatest effect precisely at the age when most lifelong smokers begin the habit -- the teen-age years. Studies of smoking patterns show that people who don't begin smoking by age 18 are far less likely ever to start.
Moreover, national studies are showing an alarming increase in smoking among teen-age girls -- the population that in Baltimore and other cities is producing skyrocketing rates of pregnancy. -- Talk to a physician about adding the effects of smoking to the already risky pregnancy of a 15-year-old girl, and the benefits of cigarette taxes appear to be a budget booster this state would be foolish not to tap.