Tag Archives: tobacco

The Ontological Status of Tobacco

Tobacco Regulation Smokescreen

Have you ever seen anyone sit down at the breakfast table and pour themselves a big ol’ bowl of cigarettes? Of course not. Why not? Because cigarettes aren’t food, that’s why.

Have you ever seen someone at the drug store waiting for their prescription of Marlboros? Of course not. Why not? Because cigarettes aren’t drugs.

Fatuity, thy name is Chuck Muth. Lots of things – chewing gum and lip balm, for instance – are neither breakfast cereal nor prescription drugs, but they’re still regulated for the sake of public safety. Of course protecting public safety couldn’t possibly be the reason being efforts to regulate tobacco as food and/or drug. Nope; the boogymen in the DNC are to blame.

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Cigarettes Are Evil

Some good (but not great) news:

“A federal judge ruled yesterday that tobacco companies have violated civil racketeering laws, concluding that cigarette makers conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of their product and ordering the companies to make landmark changes in the way cigarettes are marketed.”

“But U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said that under a 2005 appellate court ruling, she could not impose billions of dollars in penalties that had been sought by the Justice Department in its civil racketeering suit against the eight defendant tobacco companies.”

“All she could do, she said, was try to deter future illegal acts by the companies, and to that end, she ordered them to stop using terms such as ‘low tar,’ ‘light’ and ‘mild’ and to undertake a massive media campaign in an effort to correct years of misrepresentations.”

“It is a penalty that will cost the industry millions of dollars — a fraction of the cost of sanctions the companies faced at the outset of the case, when the Justice Department sought $280 billion from the industry.”

Meanwhile, Big Tobacco is still trying to make cigarettes more addictive than heroin.

“The amount of nicotine in most cigarettes rose an average of almost 10 percent from 1998 to 2004, with brands most popular with young people and minorities registering the biggest increases and highest nicotine content, according to a new study.”

“Nicotine is highly addictive, and while no one has studied the effect of the increases on smokers, the higher levels theoretically could make new smokers more easily addicted and make it harder for established smokers to quit.”

Screwed Up Priorities

Which of these is more likely to help poor people, cheap groceries or cheap cigarettes? Groceries, right? Tell that to Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.

Addendum 03/20/06:  Since Publius doesn’t care for my "self-righteous indignation over an evil, greedy Republican supposedly screwing the little guy to benefit evil, murderous tobacco companies", I’ve decided to explain what I thought was so obviously screwed up in these priorities.  I have no desire to "soak the poor while at the same time looking liberal".  I do, however, wish to be compassionate, and I do not believe that Gov. Barbour made a compassionate choice.

Given a choice between lowering taxes on necessities, like groceries, or a non-necessity that causes health problems, some deadly, for users and those around them, which cause increases in everyone’s insurance premiums, I’d think anyone with more than sawdust for brains would choose groceries.  Publius and some folks in the comboxes have suggested that no matter how steep the tax on smokes got, poor people would still buy them, which certainly wouldn’t help them become any less poor.  If all we were talking about was raising the tobacco tax, I might agree with them that little good would come from it.  However, Gov. Barbour had an opportunity to sign a bill into law that would not only raise the tobacco tax, but also lower the grovery tax.  It seems to me that at worst poor people would break even in that scenario; what they’d save on groveries, they’d spend on smokes.  Meanwhile, those who don’t smoke might be able to buy something nutricious for their families.  On a side note, I’d like to point out that PA, a state whose legislature is full of selfish asshats, does at least one thing right by having the decency to not tax groceries.  Taxing necessities – how retarded is that?!?

"I have a close family member who would really feel the crunch if over 80¢ were added to the cigarette tax in Virginia — and there’s no way she’d quit over it."  So says Publius.  "In Chicago, where I spent last week, a pack of cheap smokes is $7.50. Yet the po’ folks there still buy fags before food." So says Tom Smith.  "[I]if it means cutting out just one meal a day to buy a pack of smokes… i would have done it and i know plenty other smokers who would too. Case in point: i work with several guys who never have enough money for lunch, but they always have plenty of smokes." So says Squat.

Am I supposed to have sympathy for such fools?  I feel sad for them that they’d rather smoke away their lives than eat and I’ll pray that they come to their senses.  I’ll also pray that tobacco companies take it up the wazoo for deliberately addicting people.  I feel bad that they’ve been exploited and manipulated.  However, they still have free will.  As far as I’m concerned, a tobacco tax is a stupidity tax.  If you can’t figure out that food is more important than smokes, don’t come whining to me about how you don’t have enough money to feed yourself.  Forest gump had it right.; stupid is as stupid does.

That said, I’m not a fan of "sin taxes", i.e. taxes on undesirable behavior.  I prefer tax relief for desirable behavior.  That’s easier to implement in income taxes than sales taxes, though.  Still, I don’t much care for the government chiding folks for smoking, drinking exessively, etc. while profiting from those same activities.  In the case of tobacco, perhaps a decent comprimise would be to use cigarette tax proceeds for anti-smoking and smoking cessation programs.

One more thing: don’t give me a sob story about how taxing cigarettes hurts the tobacco industry.  I don’t care.  Making abortion illegal, or at least rarer, would hurt the abortion industry.  Boo-hoo.  I wouldn’t give a flying fig if Big Tobacco just curled up and died.

Up in Smoke

I, for one, whole-heartedly support the cigarette tax. I consider it a tax on stupidity. Anybody stupid enough to risk cancer, emphesema, and other nastiness and rude enough to expose others to it, deserves to pay and arm and a leg for their death-sticks. (NOTE: My grandfather died after a decade of misery that resulted directly from 50+ years of smoking. Depsite this, his sons still smoke.) If nicotine really is as addictive as smokers will say when confronted about their stupid habit (and I suspect it is), then it should be a controlled substance.

States Brace for Cigarette Backlash

"As state after deficit-ridden state ratchets up cigarette taxes, authorities are bracing for some unwelcome consequences in the form of more aggressive smuggling and bolder use of the Internet as a tax-evading tobacco shop."

"Never before have so many states — 17 this year alone — approved cigarette-tax hikes in such a short time. Anti-smoking advocates call it a win-win situation, enabling states to reduce smoking and budget deficits simultaneously."