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Opinion: Unfair advantage for tribal smoke shops

"We have had 13 months to analyze the new tobacco tax with the results being crystal clear: This is the biggest unmitigated disaster the state of Oklahoma has ever brought on itself.

Remember the promise: "This new tax will help level the playing field between nontribal licensed Oklahoma retailers and the Indian smoke shops." In fact, the compacts and lack of enforcement have careened out of control. The Indian smoke shops now enjoy an almost $10-per-carton tax advantage, making it impossible for nontribal retailers to compete.

This new tax was supposed to provide a much-needed boost to many great health care programs, including a new cancer center and medical insurance for thousands of Oklahomans. Sadly, none of this has occurred. In fact, there is a monthly shortfall of more than $4 million. That's $50 million per year down the drain that is not available to help our state's health care programs.

The best way to show the disparity the tribal smoke shops have is market share. Tribal smoke shops make up 4 percent of the cigarette retailers in the state. They sell 50 percent of all the cigarettes in the state. That means each smoke shop sells 25 times more cigarettes than each nontribal retailer. That's disparity pure and simple. Taking it a step further, these smoke shops that sell 50 percent of the cigarettes contribute less than 13 percent of total tobacco tax revenue.

Every Oklahoman can easily decipher these obscene advantages."

Get the Story:
Mike Thornbrugh: State tobacco sales tax: Level playing field still sought (The Oklahoman 2/19)

Related Stories:
Oklahoma governor seeks to crack down on tribes (12/13)
Tribal tobacco collections fail to meet projections (12/12)
Editorial: Tribes skirting state tobacco tax law (11/28)
Oklahoma lacks authority to enforce tobacco pacts (11/18)
Oklahoma leaders say state relations are improving (10/31)
State threatens Oklahoma tribes over taxes (10/10)
State says Oklahoma tribes not paying enough taxes (09/13)
States not willing to credit tribes for sharing (12/17)
Delaware chief opposes tobacco tax hike in Okla. (03/03)
Okla. governor seeks big increase in tobacco tax (01/28)
Okla. Senate approves tribal gaming bill (2/19)
Sac and Fox Treasurer: Okla. governor insults tribes (02/05)