Viewpoint: June 22, 2011

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to make sure there is no tax increase on his watch. That's why the governor says he vetoed a continuation of a 4-cent sales tax on cigarettes. It's certainly a great talking point for a politician whose name keeps coming up in discussions about future runs for national office.

The tax was already there. Smokers have been paying it for years, but renewing it is viewed by Jindal as a tax hike. This comes as the state faces mounting medical costs, some of which can be attributed to major diseases caused by smoking.

In fact, a state health department official once argued raising taxes on cigarettes would cut the incidence of smoking. That same official cited research showing when the price of a pack of cigarettes goes up 10 percent, adult demand goes down by 4 percent and teenage demand drops by as much as 14 percent.

That official was former DHH Secretary Bobby Jindal, who made those arguments in a 1997 paper on rising healthcare costs linked to risky behavior. Now, it seems the governor is more concerned about renewing a 4-cent tax.

By the way, Louisiana has the third lowest cigarette tax in the country. Some legislators are trying a maneuver that could see the cigarette tax issue on the ballot. If succesful, it will be up to voters to decide which of Jindal's arguments they support.