BOISE, Idaho –
Governor Butch Otter said today that the State of Idaho has seen such a rapid decline in tobacco use that it has severely hurt tax coffers. Idaho currently has a tobacco tax rate of 40% of the wholesale sales price of the tobacco, which has, until now, been a robust source of funding for health and educational programs.
“The bottom line,” Governor Otter wrote in a memo to state legislators and other state employees. “Is that we’re going to have to cut health and other important social programs unless we can get more people using tobacco whether that be chewing, snuff, cigars or cigarettes.”
Idaho has had a wildly successful program called Project Filter that provides encouragement and help to those who wish to quit tobacco and has recently boasted some of the lowest tobacco use rates in the country.
“So, now we get this memo,” Marge Deloitte of Project Filter said. “Otter wants to increase tobacco use while historically supporting our program? Talk about a mixed message. Talk about turning on a dime. Shame on Butch Otter!”
Deloitte encouraged Idaho to raise the tax rate again if they need additional tax money. But the high tax on tobacco was partially designed to discourage smoking. Otter says raising taxes is an erroneous solution.
“Cigarettes have gotten safer,” Otter wrote. “It’s not the nicotine that causes disease, it’s the other junk they used to put in there. Heck, I’ve been using dipping tobacco for years and I haven’t had one significant health problem. Just don’t abuse tobacco. Maybe only smoke one pack a day. It’s the people who smoke three packs a day or chew an entire can that get tobacco-related illnesses. This is the message we need to get out to our citizens: tobacco is much safer and don’t abuse it.”
Otter also wrote:
“Let’s not kid ourselves here. Being a couch potato is the main cause of disease in Idaho and America. Folks need to get off their you know whats and go hunting, fishing, paddle boarding. Get active!”
Dick Derson from NORML, a nonprofit lobbying organization working to legalize marijuana, responded by saying Otter should legalize marijuana to fix his tax woes.
“Idaho says they’re a libertarian state. That means they believe in personal and economic freedom. Then why not legalize marijuana? The state would be in line with their professed values and make a fortune off taxes. Why try to potentially pull off this ‘tobacco is healthy’ shenanigan? It’s an absurdity.”
Otter would need Idaho legislature backing to receive funding to roll out a ‘Tobacco Is Safe’ campaign, and while that seems unlikely, the heavily republican legislature tends to align themselves with Otter’s policies.