cigarettes tax
The editorial "Make all companies pay" pitched another new cigarette tax, but left out a few details.

It had plenty of smoke from David Sutton of Altria/Philip Morris, who is suddenly concerned about Medicaid patients in Florida. He offers the same distortions repeated for years by Big Tobacco hired guns from Richmond, Va., and Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. These companies employ thousands of workers in those states and sell 80 percent of cigarettes in America. They sell more than $3.7 billion worth of cigarettes just in Florida annually, but they want to siphon even more cash out of Florida's economy.

This new tax would be paid by only one Florida company, a company that did not participate in the decades-long conspiracy to hide links between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, the addictive nature of nicotine and other wrongful acts. Big Tobacco signed the 1997 settlement and agreed to pay $1.3 billion for Medicaid and $11.3 billion to duck punitive damages. Why would the biggest companies pay all those billions? Because the settlement included a release "forever" from state lawsuits for past, present and future actions

The new tax provides no such protection for Big Tobacco's competitors. So does this sound like "fairness" - huge, out-of-state companies are protected from lawsuits while the in-state manufacturer providing jobs for Florida's economy is not? Virginia and North Carolina tobacco giants want Gov. Scott and the Legislature to tax their only in-state competition, family-owned Dosal Tobacco Corp. Dosal played no part in the tobacco conspiracy, was dismissed from the 1997 trial, and has no behavior worthy of punitive damages.

As for much-needed revenue to pay for Medicaid, the Legislature just increased the cigarette tax by $10 per carton on all brands, and Congress added $6 to that. So in 2010 all companies paid an additional $16 tax per carton in the worst recession since the Great Depression. That represents a 45 percent increase on Dosal's products and only a 27 percent increase on Big Tobacco brands. Level playing field?

For eight years, a tax on Dosal has been pushed by out-of-state manufacturers. They want our legislators to give them 100 percent of the market. They want Dosal shut down, while 300 Florida jobs move north. But that should be decided in the free marketplace, not the back rooms of the Legislature. This is an unfair new tax aimed at unraveling justice, eliminating competition in Florida and rewarding decades of racketeering and unethical conduct by the giant out-of-state players. Why should all the cigarettes sold in Florida be manufactured by workers at a handful of enormous plants in Richmond, Greensboro and Winston-Salem?
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