Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Summit County Ohio Eyeing Cigarette Tax to Fund the Arts

According to an article in the Akron Beacon Journal, the Summit County Council wishes to impose a special cigarette tax to raise money to fund arts and cultural organizations in the county. The tax would have to be approved first by the state legislature. The cigarette tax revenues would be used to support "financially struggling organizations such as the Akron Art Museum, Akron Civic Theatre and the All-American Soap Box Derby."

The Rest of the Story

I think this proposal is problematic for two reasons. First, it does not seem fair to place the burden of funding the arts solely on the backs of smokers, who themselves tend to represent a lower-income population in general. Second, it seems unwise to permanently tie the financial health of the arts and cultural organizations to continued high levels of cigarette smoking.

If this proposal passes, the Akron Art Museum will have to change its sponsor acknowledgment to say: "We thank the following groups for enriching the cultural life of our community through their dedication to philanthropy: the Lehner Family Foundation, the Akron Community Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the smokers of Summit County."

The Akron Civic Theatre would have to promote its upcoming production as follows: "This production of the Nutcracker is proudly brought to you by the smokers of Camel, Newport, and Virginia Slims."

And if you go to Derby Downs in late July, you'd be reading the following sign: "The All-American Soap Box Derby is brought to you by the smokers of Marlboro, an All-American cigarette."

It's not clear if the proposed tax includes smokeless tobacco, but if it does, we might be seeing a sign in Akron that reads: "The National Inventors Hall of Fame is proudly supported by the thoughtful citizens of Summit County who chew U.S. Tobacco products: Skoal, Copenhagen, and Happy Days Mint."

I can just see the billboards in Summit County that try to increase funding for the arts:

"Support the arts. Smoke cigarettes."

"Help us weather our way through the financial crisis. Smoke a few extra cigarettes a day. It's for the good of our county."

"Don't put our county museums in jeopardy. Reconsider your decision to quit smoking."

"Pass our artistic and cultural legacy on to our children. Smoke."

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