One week ago today, I quit smoking cigarettes. That’s wonderful right? Wrong. Well it is wonderful. We all know that smoking leads to lung cancer and that lung cancer leads to death. I liked to smoke though. Genuinely enjoyed almost every single cigarette I’ve ever had. When I was young I remember watching peoples’ faces cringe as they plugged their nose when they saw or smelled a smoker. To fit in, I remember doing the same. I also remember secretly loving the smell. I had no problem with it whatsoever. It smelled tasty. I also like the smell of gasoline. Whatever this means about me, I don’t know. I do know, however, that I like what I like.
So why quit? Anyone who smokes knows exactly why. I walked in to my local Shell convenience store with a five dollar bill and a quest for cigarettes. I asked for a pack of Marlboro 27’s. When he rang them up I could not believe my ears. I used my eyes to glance up at the register. I now believed my ears. Five dollars and fifty cents for twenty cigarettes. I walked out to my car to dig through my change for a couple of quarters. After having bought them, I resolved to never buy another pack again. And I haven’t.
But wait there’s more. At the time, for whatever reason, I had not given the price increase much thought. Later I ran in to some smoker friends who brought the subject up. They told me that the state of California had raised the tobacco tax. That made sense, I thought, but I had to look into it further. It turns out that the tax was federal and would not go into effect until April 1st. This left me puzzled but a bit more of googling gave me the answer I desired. The tobacco companies had raised the price in anticipation of the new tax. This meant the price would increase once more on April 1st. By my estimation, smokers will be paying at least six bucks for every pack of cigarettes they smoke. That’s why I quit, but this isn’t about me.
Here’s we’re things get dicey. We’re I get to my point. Or points. Probably points.
The absolute largest demographic of smokers is that of low-income households (Don’t believe me? Check here ). As income increases, tobacco use decreases. Now, certain crazy (I italicize crazy because if they are crazy I am a crazed maniac) people have proposed new taxes on obviously superfluous things. Things like private jets, yachts, oversized mansions, swimming pools, luxury cars, etc. I have heard no news of the success of such proposals. I have, though, noticed a federal tax increase of tobacco. I understand. The economy is flailing. Failing too. The world is ending, Jesus is coming. We need to raise money somehow. In their strategy to raise this money, our leaders answered this rhetorical question. Should we increase the taxes of the rich or of the poor? They answered the poor. Let me push my point further.
The tobacco industry is one of the few strong industries the United States has left. A federal increase of the tobacco tax will inevitably harm the tobacco companies. I have quit and I’m sure many others will follow. In the current economic environment, I believe an increased tobacco tax will be more likely to hurt than help us in the long run. What do I know though? I should sit and twiddle my thumbs while Obama’s thumb twiddling economic advisors take care of me.
Now now, I know. Smoking is bad. It’s good that I have quit and that others have quit. I beg you, for just one moment, to forget this fact. Forget that smoking is bad and that you detest it. That is not what is in question here. The question we should all pose to ourselves is, “Do our political representatives more strongly favor the rich or the poor?” The answer is obvious. I did not write this short opinion piece to prove that point. It has already been done. Nothing more can be expected in a free market economy.
This is not a defense of tobacco in any way, shape, or form. It's overall damage to society makes it worthy of taxation. My argument is in no way hinging upon proving the opposite. I am only remarking on the fact that something like tobacco, used primarily by the lower class, was one of the first things to receive a tax increase during this economic crisis. Then again, I'm sure some would have us believe that the United States is a classless nation and that everyone gets everything they deserve based on how hard they work. There is no use in arguing colors with the blind.
My purpose in writing this was only the illumination of yet another example. A current event to remind us all that Uncle Sam does not love us. I’ll leave you to make your own judgment, as I know you surely will.
I am glad to have quit smoking. Really. I am not glad to have been forced to quit smoking.