John Roling is reporting the Senate is considering a new tobacco tax that will increase the tax cap on cigars to as high as $10 per cigar. Thus a good $5 cigar could cost as much as $15, effectively extinguishing the habit for folks like John and myself forever.
This is going to be insult to injury to Illinois smokers. In my state’s latest attempt to become Little California, the legislature has passed a state-wide smoking ban that will go into effect on January 1st. According to a Peoria Journal Star article, this ban will be more restrictive than the current Chicago and Bloomington-Normal smoking bans as it will have fewer exemptions for businesses and will disallow smoking within 15 feet of pretty much any opening in a building, including windows and vents, not just the main entrances.
Apparently our country has yet to learn lessons of alcohol prohibition and tax. We already know Prohibition didn’t do crap, so let’s talk about taxes. This can be summed up in one word: moonshine.
To avoid the tax man, people have been setting up illegal stills in the backwoods of the South for decades. The speakeasies live on, as both the moonshine makers and the bars that sell it make a fortune, and the buyer probably pays less for moonshine than they do the real stuff. More tax money gets wasted on resources to combat the problem, it turns more people into criminals, and it becomes dangerous because you just don’t know what kind of chemicals wind up in that stuff.
Is it a stretch to see the same thing happening with cigarettes? There’s already a problem with organized crime bringing in untaxed cigarettes (I’m not clear on how this works, I just remember seeing it happening). What’s to stop smuggled cigars from making the rounds? You probably won’t see people growing and rolling their own tobacco, but it could become the next illicit trade like pot, cocaine, and heroine. We all know how well the War on Drugs is going.
“But we need to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors!”
Amen. I couldn’t agree more. But those laws are already on the books. It’s illegal to sell to them, and it’s illegal for them to smoke. Does it get any more restrictive than that? Yet I’ve worked in two different school districts and both have their share of smoking students. I’ve seen D.A.R.E. officers stake out hangouts and give kids tickets, and these same kids will be out there the next day. I think we’re better off supporting creative programs like D.A.R.E. and the Truth campaign than wasting legislative resources on drafting new laws.
I almost forgot about prostitution. Illegal just about everywhere, yet it’s not too tough to find a woman on the street willing to sell herself for a buck. They know it’s illegal, they know it’s very dangerous. The Johns know it’s illegal and they know it’s very dangerous. Yet these women make a buck and the Johns spend a buck, and cops who I’d rather see chasing violent criminals waste their time hauling in harmless, horny creeps.
Vices don’t go away. People have these same urges, and for the most part they’ll do what it takes to satisfy these urges. Other people will continue to make money satisfying those urges, no matter the cost to them.
But see, it’s not just about vice, it’s about taste. A lot of these people — be they Cogresscritters, lobbyists, or general whiner — find smoking as distasteful as they do sex, drugs, and alcohol, so they set out to squash it. Meanwhile, according to this chart depicting “The REAL Threat to America”, more people are dying of (non smoking-related) heart disease than smoking, and that doesn’t include related health problems like obesity and diabetes.
They say they need this tax to fund health care for children. What’s a bigger problem for children: smoking or obesity? We see fat kids all over the place, sucking down greasy food and soda. Yet do we see Congress taxing the shit out of Big Macs? No.