Governor Chris Christie just can’t seem to stay out of the headlines lately. Usually, for someone considering a White House run, that’s good news as long as they spell your name correctly. But in terms of primary voters, a number of these stories aren’t doing him much good. Another one may be the legislation imposing a new raft of taxes on E-cigarettes and additional tobacco products which has landed on his desk.
Whether you chew, smoke cigars or a pipe, or have traded traditional tobacco products for electronic cigarettes, New Jersey consumers would pay a lot more for their habit under a bill a state Senate committee approved Monday.
Members of the fast-growing e-cigarette industry and retailers warned the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee that the higher taxes would drive demand for the devices to the internet or other states — taking sales tax revenue with it.
This isn’t something that’s being forced down the Governor’s throat, either. It’s very possible that Christie may be planning to sign this, though it’s tough to imagine why. Increasing revenue by way of jacking up taxes doesn’t come out of any conservative – or even Republican – playbook I can think of. Making it a sin tax – using the strong hand of the nanny state to modify behavior and save the citizenry from themselves – steers it even further afield.
But even if we were to assume for a moment that Christie were simply being his usual, pragmatic self and latching on to a solution to a state level fiscal problem, his reputation as a problem solver takes yet another hit on this one. It’s a bit early to conclude that discouraging the use of e-cigarettes will help save his citizens when any number of reputable sources have already weighed in to say that this could be a significant boon to those looking to quit smoking. Further, as we’ve discussed here at great length, higher taxes on tobacco and related products simply provides an additional incentive to smuggling – already taking place in his state – while states already lack the resources to fight it.
If Chris Christie is serious about raising his national profile in the GOP he needs to step off this path. True, he seems to take great delight in insisting that he doesn’t care what other people think about him – that whole Jersey maverick thing, I guess – but at some point he’s got to exceed the limit on his conservative good will credit card. (Said with the acknowledgement that said card has already been cancelled by more than a view readers here.)