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Re "High Utah tobacco tax boosts smuggling" (Tribune, Jan. 11):

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy claims to show high rates of cigarette smuggling as a result of state cigarette tax increases. There are several reasons to be skeptical.

First, the Mackinac Center has a long history of receiving funding from the tobacco industry and supporting the industry's opposition to tobacco tax increases. So it's no surprise the report parrots the tobacco industry's main arguments.

Second, Mackinac's methodology is seriously flawed. Mackinac calculates the amount of cigarette smuggling in each state by comparing taxed sales to estimates of the total number of cigarettes consumed. But these estimates wrongly assume that the number of cigarettes consumed by smokers is consistent across states. As a result, the report exaggerates the number of cigarettes smuggled.

Higher cigarette taxes are truly a win-win-win for a state: They reduce smoking, provide a reliable source of revenue and are strongly supported by the American people. Elected officials should side with kids over Big Tobacco by significantly increasing tobacco taxes.

Danny McGoldrick Vice President for Research Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Washington, D.C.

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