NPM tax is a sop to Altria, Big Tobacco

But discussions of another cigarette tax hike this year – this time just on the tobacco manufacturing companies or “non-participating manufacturers,” or NPMs, that weren’t a party to the state’s tobacco settlement – should come with a giant asterisk.

No one can explain that fact better than Brian Perry of Capstone Public Affairs, which represents Altria but does not lobby for it. Perry wrote in a recent blog entry the truth about this new tax on the NPMs. What’s the truth? The truth is that this tax on the NPMs isn’t about solving the state’s revenue problems and it’s not particularly about forcing cigarette makers to bear a portion of the state’s public health care burden, either.

It’s about market share. It’s about making it more expensive for “cheap” cigarette companies (Little Tobacco) to compete with Altria and the other “Big Tobacco” companies who settled Mississippi’s tobacco lawsuit in the 1990s.

Perry, Altria’s PR guy, honestly stated the facts in his blog: “Today, NPMs have 14 percent of the market share in Mississippi. That means the health care reimbursement funds from the settlement are 14 percent less than they would be, if the state did not levy a fee on the NPMs.

“By giving the NPMs a free ride, Mississippi is giving a price advantage to companies who do not pay Mississippi reimbursement funds. Basically, the state is giving an incentive to purchase tobacco products that are equally as harmful to health, but do not reimburse the state for health care costs.”

Sid Salter
Clarion Ledger