, 10 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
THREAD: I just published a sort of wonky story on what tax and public health experts say about who will end up paying for a cigarette tax, if it's approved by Richmond City Council. Here are the highlights:
First, the cigarette tax is almost certainly going to disproportionately burden poorer resident. Both because, like all flat taxes, low-income smokers will pay a larger portion of their income than wealthier smokers. Low-income people also smoke at a higher rate in Virginia...
Some economists argue the burden could be offset by funding things that benefit low-income people more. Mayor Levar Stoney argues that will be the case b/c it’ll fund roads and schools - things that are worse in low income areas. That's not necessarily true...
The money isn’t earmarked for low-income neighborhoods and schools. The benefits will be felt throughout the city, if it passes. And tax experts say that better roads, at best, benefit all economic classes...
Some City Council members are also concerned people will just avoid that tax by buying in the surrounding counties. That’s a valid concern. One study showed 13-25% of smokers will cross state lines to avoid cigarette taxes. Could be even bigger given how small Richmond is...
Counties in Virginia can’t institute cigarette taxes by law, meaning they’ll probably stay cheaper in the areas surrounding Richmond. That could potentially compound the disproportionate burden on poorer residents who don't have the means to go buy cigarettes in the counties...
There is, however, a potential public health benefit to a cigarette tax in Richmond. Research suggests there is a 3-5 percent reduction in smoking for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes...
The average price of cigarettes in Richmond is $5, meaning we could potentially see a 3-5 percent reduction in smoking from a 50-cent cigarette tax. But a public health expert told me it could be less than that for two reasons:
1) Cigarette taxes don’t apply to e-cigarettes, so people could be enticed to switch over. And we don’t yet know the long-term affects of vaping.
2) The money isn’t going to programs to help people quit. It’s going to funding schools and municipal infrastructure...
Bottom line: Experts say poor residents in Richmond will disproportionally pay for the cigarette tax that will fund roads and schools for everyone. But there may be some public health benefit that disproportionally helps them - what the mayor calls the “health equity” benefit
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