New Mexico’s legislators will have record revenues to spend ($8.8 billion) when they convene in Santa Fe in January, but that doesn’t mean that they still won’t raise your taxes. As the Santa Fe New Mexican recently reported, several legislators are planning to file legislation to raise taxes on tobacco products in the upcoming session for the ostensible purpose of improving health. There are numerous problems with this approach:
- Cigarette smoking and vaping are simply NOT the same thing from a health perspective. According to Public Health England, vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. Why treat them the same way policy-wise?
- New Mexico is already a hub of tobacco smuggling (a problem that would only grow if taxes are raised). According to data from the Mackinac Center 37% of all cigarettes in New Mexico are smuggled, that’s one of the highest rates in the nation.
- Interestingly, while the three legislators mentioned in the article (as supporting the tax hike) seem implacably opposed to tobacco use, New Mexico just legalized marijuana and two of the three legislators voted FOR that. Sen. Hickey “took a walk” on the vote on marijuana legalization. Supporting pot legalization while pushing to eliminate tobacco (to promote health) certainly raises some interesting questions.
- Finally, tobacco taxes impact the poor the most. They are extremely “regressive” both in their application and the fact that lower income people smoke tobacco at higher rates than do wealthier New Mexicans.