Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Interesting point....

....raised in the comments to this story:

Each day Mark Baylor sits downtown rolling cigarettes from tobacco, then takes some deep puffs from his self-made smokes.
But a massive federal tobacco tax slated to take effect today may finally force Baylor to kick his 20-year habit.
“I’ve stocked up in advance though,” Baylor, 45, said Tuesday. “I like smoking.”
Baylor, like many smokers, has been stockpiling tobacco — he’s bought several pounds of rolling tobacco in anticipation of the tax that will make his habit much more expensive.
...A typical pack of cigarettes will cost about $7 in Texas after the tax takes effect. As of today a pound of rolling tobacco will cost $60 instead of the current $15.99 at Tobacco Outlet in West Houston.
...Anti-smoking activists hope the new taxes will encourage people to quit smoking.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates that more than 150,000 children will not start smoking and nearly 75,000 adults will stop smoking in Texas because of the rising prices.
“This is probably the most effective way to reduce consumption and more importantly stop kids from ever starting to smoke,” said James Gray of the American Cancer Society in Texas. “We know what will happen based on similar tax increases before. And it will be positive.”
As the commenter said, "Gray is right. Kids will stop smoking cigarettes. Instead they will turn to the much cheaper alternative: Marijuana."
How much longer will it be until illegal weed is actually cheaper than legal tobacco? On a per-pound basis of course, weed is pretty expensive; a Google search for "price for pound of marijuana" yielded between $1,300 and $6,500 per pound. But then there's the matter of all the tobacco stores that could potentially be forced out of business with these punitive taxes, and the black market that potentially could sprout up as a result of this. I suppose it's already there, to an extent, but just think of how it'll get, especially when folks get fed up and start learning how to grow their own. I wonder how long it'll be until the War On Illegal Tobacco becomes yet another front in the War On Some Drugs. Not long, I'm sure...and you know how they'll justify it? "These people are trying to get around funding children's health programs!" (Oh, and how long do you think it'll be till they get around to taxing, say, certain calibers of handgun ammunition to fund these programs too? Especially considering these are the same people who look at inner-city violence as a public-health issue.) And I have a sort-of personal stake in this, because my girlfriend's a smoker. I'd love for her to quit, though I promised her I wouldn't nag her about it, and if these new federal taxes influence her to kick the habit that'll be great. And I've lost loved ones to cigarettes, and it cut me to the bone...but none of that changes the fact that this sort of tax sets a very, very bad precedent. (Where do you think they got the idea to sue the gun industry in the first place?)
"First they came for the moonshiners, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a moonshiner,
Then they came for the smokers, and I didn't speak up because I hated cigarettes...."