“The anti-smoking forces once again are getting their underwear in a twist by reaching for straws in their attempts to besmirch our mom-and-pop members,” said Gary Pesh, president of the IPCPR. Pesh also is owner of a chain of retail tobacco stores in Virginia. “We the retailers didn’t make the marketing switch and we never market to or sell any kind of tobacco products to children.”
The Associated Press and other news sources have reported that some small producers have relabeled their RYO products as pipe tobacco to avoid having consumers pay newly increased tobacco taxes at the much higher RYO level.
Among other increases on tobacco products, the new RYO taxes jumped 2,000 percent per pound. RYO tobacco sales have plummeted while pipe tobacco sales are on the rise. Pesh believes it is due, in small part, to the label switch but mostly because many consumers who roll their own cigarettes are simply using pipe tobacco, which, because of lower taxes, is less expensive than RYO tobacco.
“The IPCPR is comprised of some 2,000 tobacconists, largely small, neighborhood businesses that maintain very high standards of ethics and professionalism. We didn’t support these tax increases but, now that they are here, we abide by the letter of the law,” Pesh said.
Pesh is particularly concerned with the well-funded anti-tobacco organizations claiming in the reports that his organization’s membership sells any kind of tobacco products to children, including flavored pipe tobacco.
“Pipe tobacco is marketed strictly to adults – as are all of the tobacco products we sell. It’s against the law to sell tobacco to minors. Period. As for pipe tobacco, it has been infused with a wide range of flavors to enhance and provide variety in its taste and aroma for the adult pipe smoker since the 1500s,” he said.
The new tax increases on tobacco products went into effect earlier this year to fund SCHIP, the government’s expanded children’s health insurance program.
“These tobacco taxes are never going to be enough to pay for SCHIP. If more people smoked, they might be enough, but we all know that smoking overall is on the decline, largely due to these very same increased taxes. In a way, the government is throwing out the baby with the bath water by over taxing tobacco,” said Pesh.
As for the news reports, Pesh emphasized that pipe tobacco and RYO tobacco are different products for different uses; that pipe tobacco has been flavored for five hundred years and has never been marketed to children; and that the IPCPR fully supports children’s healthcare but believes it should be funded by sources other than tobacco.
“Taxes aimed at modifying behavior have a way of backfiring. And the last thing we need is for government to further intrude on our businesses and personal lives,” he said.
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For more information about tobacco tax issues in your state, please visit www.ipcpr.org.