They will tell us that, with a higher tax, smokers will go across our borders to buy their cigarettes and that smuggling and black markets will be rampant. They won't tell us that, despite these dire predictions, almost all our surrounding states have cigarette taxes higher than ours or that other states have raised their cigarette tax more than 40 times since West Virginia last raised its tax. Even Kentucky has increased it once and is likely to do so again.
They will tell us that this is a tax on the poor, since so many low-income residents smoke. They won't tell us how expensive this addiction is for these unfortunate folks, even without the tax, or how many will stop because of the price increase and immediately increase their life expectancies and bank accounts.
They will tell us that, since a bigger tax raises prices, there will be declining tax receipts over time because of the drop in cigarette purchases. They won't tell us that, even though this causes many people to stop smoking, there appears to be no example of a cigarette tax increase leading to decreased revenue.
Finally, they will tell us that it is politically damaging for legislators to support a cigarette tax increase. They won't tell us, though, that, over the last several years, all polling in West Virginia shows that 60 percent or more of West Virginians across the political spectrum support a significant cigarette tax increase.
Of course, there are other strategies that address the tobacco scourge, but this one is uniquely valuable and easy to implement. Raising the cigarette tax is good policy, as it improves both citizens' health and the state budget and has been recommended by the Advisory Council of the Governor's Substance Abuse Task Force.
It is also good politics, as, to put it simply, the public wants it. There is just no good reason to delay, as it will only increase death and disease. All it takes is a committed Legislature and the stroke of a pen. Who knows, maybe Arnie will come down from Pennsylvania for the signing ceremony?
Foster is a former state senator from Charleston and a longtime medical reform crusader.