Smokers in Kansas must feel like they're being attacked from every possible angle.
They've been ordered outside of public places if they want to light up. Nonsmokers badger them to kick the habit.
And now, a need to raise money in the midst of a state budget crunch has some proposing that smokers cough up more dough to help the cause.
If health advocacy groups campaigning to tack a $1 tax on a pack of cigarettes have their way, Kansans can indeed expect to pay more for their smokes.
Considering the potential to raise needed funds, generate savings in health-care costs and discourage an unhealthy habit, it's a prudent pitch.
When cigarettes go up in price, smokers often cut back. Younger would-be smokers have even more trouble affording such an expense.
Kansas history proves as much. When the cigarette tax was raised in 2002 and 2003 to bring it to the current 79 cents, packs of cigarettes sold dropped 21.6 percent in the first year — yet revenue to the state still soared from $47.9 million in fiscal year 2002 to $116.2 million the next year.
So, with the state facing a budget shortfall of some $470 million, it's no wonder most Kansans polled support a higher tobacco tax.
The poll by Public Opinion Strategies found that 69 percent of likely Kansas voters favored the $1 per pack increase.
Plus, 81 percent agreed with increasing the tax on other tobacco products, such as cigars, snuff and chew, to match the rate on cigarettes. Those products currently are taxed at 10 percent of the wholesale price, an amount in place since 1972.
Those polled also preferred the tobacco tax over other income-generating strategies, such as sales and income taxes (although all warrant consideration.)
It's worth noting that Public Opinion Strategies was co-founded by Glen Bolger, a leading Republican Party strategist and pollster, so there was no Democratic agenda at work in the poll.
And those lawmakers — particularly Kansas House Republican leaders — who fear that endorsing any tax could cost them politically should know there's no evidence that a cigarette tax ever cost a legislator their seat.
Instead, lawmakers should acknowledge the good on the health and financial fronts that would come of the tobacco tax.
For one, it would raise an estimated $74.7 million in new revenue, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The funds needed as public schools and other state-funded agencies face cuts also could help with tobacco cessation and other prevention programs.
Above all, health-related benefits of the tax would matter most.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimated that the $1 tax would lead 12,000 adult smokers in Kansas to quit, and discourage 21,600 children alive today from taking up smoking.
And the most compelling reason of all: The tax would prevent an estimated 10,000 smoking-caused deaths — more than the populations of Scott and Kearny counties combined.
Of course, the financial benefit of healthier Kansans also would be significant, including an estimated savings of a whopping $492 million in long-term, tobacco-related health-care costs.
You'd think the potential for saving lives would be reason enough to support the tobacco tax.
But even if it takes an economic crisis to deliver legislation that leads to better health while improving state finances, we've made progress.
E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at firstname.lastname@example.org.