Oregon Economic Opportunity Project


In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act, taxing every sheet of printed paper used in the American colonies. The proceeds were to be used to help pay the rising cost of stationing thousands of British troops on the Appalachian frontier to defend the colonies. Many colonists found this tax to be outrageous not because of its economic cost (which was small), but because it was explicitly being used by England to raise revenues without the approval of the colonies. The resulting opposition to the Stamp Act was so great that a year later, the tax was repealed.

Like the Stamp Act, revenues from Oregon’s cigarette tax fund services that benefit all citizens equally; and, like the colonists who felt they were not being fairly represented in their government, smokers only make up about 20 percent of the population, giving them little political voice. However, while the Stamp Act taxed all the colonists based on their use of paper products, a somewhat universally demanded good, cigarette taxes only tax smokers. In many ways, the cigarette tax is worse than the Stamp Act, and yet today, the colonists who refused to pay the tax on paper are called patriots, while those who don’t pay the cigarette tax are called felons.

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About the author: Bruce Smith completed this paper as part of his 2005 summer research internship at Cascade Policy Institute. He is a student at William and Mary College.

The views expressed herein are the author’s own.

About Cascade Policy Institute: Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s premier policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity. To that end, the Institute publishes policy studies, provides public speakers, organizes community forums and sponsors educational programs. Cascade Policy Institute is a tax-exempt educational organization as defined under IRS code 501(c)(3). Cascade neither solicits nor accepts government funding, and is supported by individual, foundation and business contributions. Nothing appearing in this document is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of Cascade or its donors, or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before any legislative body. The views expressed herein are the author’s own. Copyright 2005 by Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved.


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