Complaint filed over Big Tobacco-funded effort to oppose Montana tobacco tax

A group is proposing a $2 a pack tax increase to help raise funding for Medicaid in Montana.

For Montana, that is a big tax increase and such a proposal is likely fighting an uphill climb in maybe the most Libertarian state in the country. You might be surprised to know that about 10 years ago, Montana voters did approve a $1 a pack cigarette tax hike. But, times have changed. People have become more extreme in their positions since then.

Anyway, the group behind the measure, Healthy Montana, filed a complaint against a group opposing the measure — Montanans Against Tax Hikes, for illegal campaign behaviour, including not reporting expenditures and making illegal robocalls to Montana voters.

First thing I thought was, “oh, I bet MATH is actually funded by Big Tobacco.”

Sure enough, from a Missoula Current article:

The complaint says Chuck Denowh, the treasurer for MATH, also filed a letter with the Montana attorney general in April, “opposing the proposed ballot statements for I-185 on behalf of Altria Client Services LLC and Rai Services Company, whose parent companies dominate the tobacco market, controlling roughly 86% of the market share in 2016.”

Sure enough, as we all know Altria is the company formerly known as Philip Morris. And Rai Services Company, I had to Google. It’s the parent company of — you guessed it — RJ Reynolds.

Quelle shock, huh? So MATH is bankrolled pretty directly by Big Tobacco.

Anyway, this just blew me away, incredibly, one of the robocalls offered people $100 if they called back. I’d love to know if anyone actually received their $100.

Montana’s current tobacco tax is $1.70 a pack, which is almost exactly the national average ($1.68 a pack).

Anyway, in addition to the cigarette tax increase, the proposal would also increase smokeless tobacco taxes by 33 percent and taxes on vaping products. I’ll be keeping on eye on this ballot measure in November. Again, this being Montana, where the sheep are nervous and the taxes are detested, I can’t hold my breath about its chances.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *