Face covered with thick smoke

Oregon Measure 108, on the Nov. 3 ballot, would increase the tax on cigarettes by $2 per pack, up to $3.33 per pack. It also increases taxes on cigars, and establishes a new tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products that are essentially nicotine delivery systems.

We hope you support it.

The tax revenue would fund health care and mental health care for low-income families, and public health programs aimed at preventing the use of tobacco and nicotine, and helping users quit. If passed, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. This would bring in an estimated $160 million in new revenue for Oregon per year.

We don’t like the fact that raising the per-pack tax to $3.33 would make Oregon’s cigarette prices considerably higher than in our three neighboring states. Those per-pack taxes are: Washington: $3.03, California: $2.87 and Idaho: $0.57.

Those smokers and vapers who live near a state border might decide it’s worth the time and gas to drive across the state line to stock up. And when people cross a border to shop for one item, they are likely to buy other items as well on that trip. So much for shopping local.

There is also a concern that high cigarette taxes will create a black market, with product being smuggled in from states with lower taxes.

Right now, 31 states have higher cigarette taxes than Oregon. The passage of Measure 108 would mean only five states would have higher rates.

We do like making the users of addictive and unhealthy products (tobacco and nicotine in this case) pay for addiction treatment and health care costs that result from their use. We also are in favor of anything that dissuades young people from smoking or vaping, and keeps them from getting addicted to nicotine.

We don’t buy the argument that taxes like this “punish Oregon’s most vulnerable.” Ultimately, when costs of cigarettes and other nicotine delivery products go up, smoking rates go down. And that protects the vulnerable. We recommend a “Yes” vote on Measure 108.

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of an editorial written by the editorial board of the East Oregonian. EO Media Group owns The Bulletin and the East Oregonian.

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