Break Out the Cigarillos


Good news: Congress has passed legislation that ends the 66-year-old tobacco price support system.

Bad news: The government will pay quota holders (not necessarily farmers) $10 per quota pound, a total of more than $10 billion over 10 years, for agreeing to compete in the free market.

Good news: The cost of the payments will be covered not by tax money but by an assessment on cigarette manufacturers.

Bad news: The tobacco companies may simply pass the cost on to consumers, as they did with their payments under the agreement that settled state lawsuits against the industry. If so, the assessment will be a tobacco tax hike in disguise.

Good news: Provisions giving the FDA jurisdiction over tobacco, which would have restricted competition and could have impeded the introduction and promotion of safer tobacco products, were dropped before the final bill was approved.