The drive to extend the arts and culture tax could take $150 million from Cuyahoga taxpayers.

It will most likely hurt the poorest residents.

It is solely a cigarette tax and raises significant revenue with little attention to where that money goes.

And the worst part of the tax, which goes most heavily to the largest arts venues, not struggling artists, is the tax weighs most heavily upon the poor and working citizen.

It is one of the most convenient taxes but thoughtlessly damaging to the least able to pay the price, study after study shows.

It is a cruel tax. It should end. There must be a better way.

Why can our leaders not find a progressive rather than a regressive tax? It’s a lack of will.

This tax literally can take food from the mouths of poor children.

You also will hear the argument that the cigarette tax represents a health gain. It will discourage smoking.

This is one of the phoniest of claims.

Thus far the arts tax has collected $143,380,634 from smokers.

It is an incredibly heavy tax.

The sports sin tax recently extended for 20 years cost smokers $27 million since August 2005 through April, 2015.

That means total $170 million from County smokers. That isn’t counting the cigarette portion of the sin tax for the first 10 years.

Promoters of this tax will push the lie that this tax represents a health incentive for lower income people to stop smoking.

However, many studies put the lie to that.

Indeed, since smoking is an addiction difficult to stop it likely means people will pay the higher price.

That means they will have less money to spend elsewhere. Like on food.

Such taxes do, studies show, decrease smoking among the more affluent.

One research for the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation had this to say:

“Smoking is leaving these fancy places, these big urban areas. But it has remained in these poor and rural areas. They are getting left behind.”

The New York Times said of a University of Minnesota health survey:

“Americans with a high school education or less make up 40 percent of the population, but they account for 55 percent of the nation’s 42 million smokers… Since 1997, the smoking rate for adults has fallen 27 percent, but among the poor it has declined just 15 percent…Among adults living in deep poverty in the South and Midwest, the smoking rate has not changed at all. (My emphasis).”

And a recent study of federal data “found that as smoking declines at a fast rate in more affluent communities, the rates are staying the same among poor and working class. More people are smoking in poorer communities.”

Yet, not a cent of these tens of millions of dollars here is devoted to curb smoking.

I have asked Cuyahoga County for an accounting of where the funds do go.

Generally, we know the large art institutions get the most money.

The Cleveland Orchestra, for example, lists the public giving from this tax at $10 million or more. It also receives another $10 million or more from the State of Ohio and $10 million the Ohio Arts Council, according to its program listing.

Though such generosity might be worthy of large arts organizations, is a tax that weighs heavily upon the poor and working class the way to do it? I don’t believe so.

The danger is that the higher taxes simply take more expendable resources from the poor who have to then make up the gap by buying less or cheaper foods, among other items.

It’s a disgusting, thoughtless manner of raising funds for what should be a deserving use.

Studies show that smoking remains a leading cause of premature death and “the concentration of smoking among the poor is likely to exacerbate inequalities in health.”

A recent analysis of federal data by the Population Health Metrics found that as smoking declines at a fast rate in more affluent communities, the rates are staying the same among the poor and working class. More people are smoking in poorer communities.

Two public health experts – Ken Warner and Harold Pollack – point out that “endlessly raising tobacco taxes eventually becomes cruelly regressive for addicted low-income smokers who can’t or won’t stop smoking.”

There is no incentive for these rather wealthy arts institutions to seek revenues if Cuyahoga County provides it abundantly and easily.

It’s time for a new tax. Art patrons should be ashamed of themselves for backing a cruel, regressive tax.

All because it is easiest to do.