• Equalize Ohio Tobacco Taxes
  • Right before the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line was to go up in smoke cigarettes this week, lawmakers cobbled together the Ohio Tobacco Collaborative, a public-private partnership state officials hope can kick in the money to keep the Quit Line going. That might spare Ohio the embarrassment of being the only state in the union without one.

    The Ohio General Assembly also found $500,000 in new money to enforce the state's smoking cigarettes ban in restaurants and bars. That brings the fund to $2 million.

    But this last-minute scramble to support anti-smoking cigarettes efforts could have been avoided altogether if the General Assembly -- and Gov. John Kasich -- had put aside their resistance to the "T" word (except when it comes to tax breaks for some businesses) and equalized cigarettes taxes in Ohio.

    Raising taxes on candy-flavored cigars, chewing tobacco and other addictive nicotine products -- taxed at just 17 percent of wholesale value, compared to 55 percent for cigarettes -- could also discourage youngsters from using tobacco and raise $50 million a year for anti-smoking cigarettes programs, says Shelly Kiser of the American Lung Association of Ohio.

    Ohio, which had a 22.5 percent adult smoking cigarettes rate last year -- much higher than the 17.2 percent national average -- needs to wake up to the need for tobacco-tax equity.

    Would-be smokers might be put off by the new, federally required, graphic warnings on cigarette boxes, slated for 2012.

    But bringing Ohio's tobacco tax code up to snuff would help even more.