Explore taxing tobacco

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Pelham City Council agreed Feb. 21 to ask state Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, and state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, to sponsor legislation to allow the city to establish a tobacco tax. If passed, the tax would benefit the Pelham Parks and Recreation Department and senior citizen services.

While Pelham officials would be under no obligation to adopt a tobacco tax even if the state passes legislation to allow the city to establish the tax, we believe the Pelham City Council is right to explore the potential of imposing such a tax.

A tax on tobacco products is a progressive, optional tax. Anyone who chooses to smoke would pay a tax for doing so.

A tobacco tax could provide much-needed funds for the city’s parks and recreation and senior services departments. When the economy is down, such taxes are perhaps the last hope for increased revenue for municipalities.

We would also hope a tobacco tax would potentially encourage smokers and other tobacco users to consider quitting the habit.

While it’s smart for the Pelham City Council to consider such a tax, we urge council members to do so carefully. If the tax is too aggressive, smokers might simply go elsewhere to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products.

That would have a negative effect on city businesses, and in turn would produce little revenue for the city’s parks and recreation department and senior services.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.