Obama approves largest increase ever in taxes on tobacco
WASHINGTON - One of President Obama's campaign pledges on taxes went up in puffs of smoke yesterday.
The largest increase in tobacco taxes ever took effect despite Obama's promise not to raise taxes of any kind on families earning under $250,000 or individuals under $200,000. The cigarette tax disproportionately affects the poor, who are more likely to smoke than the rich.
While Obama's tax promises last year were most often made in the context of income taxes, he sometimes extended that pledge to taxes of any kind.
"I can make a firm pledge," he said in Dover, N.H., on Sept. 12. "Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."
He repeatedly vowed "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime."
Now in office, Obama, who stopped smoking but has admitted he slips now and then, signed a law raising the tobacco tax nearly 62 cents on a pack of cigarettes, to $1.01, and raising taxes on other tobacco products.
The extra money will be used to finance a major expansion of health insurance for children. That represents a step toward achieving another campaign promise, to make sure all children are covered.
The White House contends Obama's campaign pledge left room for measures such as the one financing children's health insurance.
"The president's position throughout the campaign was that he would not raise income or payroll taxes on families making less than $250,000, and that's a promise he has kept," said White House spokesman Reid H. Cherlin. "In this case, he supported a public health measure that will extend health coverage to 4 million children who are currently uninsured."
The Democratic campaign used such statements to counter Republican assertions that Obama would raise taxes in a multitude of direct and indirect ways, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
"I think a reasonable person would have concluded that Senator Obama had made a 'no new taxes' pledge to every couple or family making less than $250,000," she said.