Stogie Tax To Fund Insurance Program For More Kids

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At J.J.'s Package Stores cigar connoisseurs have a variety to choose from to make their hearts content.

Owner and president of J.J. Ruffino and Family, Incorporated J.J. Ruffino said it is a simple pleasure that is easily enjoyed.

"Winston Churchill once said that smoking a cigar is like falling in love and Winston Churchill fell in love six times a day," Ruffino said.

Today, it is possible the new proposed cost of cigars could make even Churchill stray. Both the U.S. House and Senate recently passed bills that could potentially increase the tax of a single cigar stick from about five cents to about $10.00.

"It is outrageous to think that we would have a 22, 000 percent increase in federal taxes on tobacco products," Ruffino said.

However, that would be the only tax increase. The two versions of the bill also call for a tax increase for cigarettes.

In the House version, cigarette taxes would go up 45 cents while the Senate is looking at a possible 61 cent hike. Smokers here in Texas could be paying the increase on top of the $1 state cigarette tax that went into effect in January of this year.

According to bill proposals, the money generated from the higher tax would be used to expand the State Children's Healthcare Insurance Program to cover an additional five million kids. The program created back in 1997 currently provides medical coverage to an estimated six million children whose parents cannot afford private insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid.

Members of the tobacco industry say huge losses could be inevitable.

"The entire United States market would be affected by that," Ruffino said. "The demand I think would probably decrease dramatically."

Ruffino does not argue that all children need healthcare but says Congress is unfairly taxing the tobacco industry to fund worthy causes. Tobacco Retailers across the country have unified to inform Congress of their dissatisfaction.

"I smoke and I vote so that's the message to Congress," is one slogan Ruffino said retailers are chanting. Petitions online have even popped up asking tobacco users to sign their support against the tax increase.

A compromise and approval are still needed by the U.S. House and Senate but time is crucial. The insurance program must be reauthorized by September 30 or it could disappear all together like a puff of smoke.