Smokeless tobacco products — snuff, chewing tobacco, etc. — are apparently getting a pass from lawmakers and Gov. Haley Barbour as they seek to craft an increase in the state’s cigarette tax.
That tax break for the folks who produce and consume pouches of Red Man or tins of Skoal rather than get their nicotine fix from Winston or Marlboro cigarettes is without question a tribute to the quality and sheer number of tobacco lobbyists – and their political action committees and other groups who find ways to funnel campaign donations to state legislators – than it is a recognition of the insanity of failing to raise the tax rates on all tobacco products.
The research is solid that smokeless tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking. It can cause oral cancers and lead to addiction – just like cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco is also associated with cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and stomach, and an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.
Lawmakers should raise the tax on smokeless tobacco along with the tax cigarettes for revenue and for public health concerns as well. Tobacco is tobacco.