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Friday, January 12, 2007

My Government Wants Me To Smoke!

The state of Illinois, where I currently hold residence, is once again looking to ban smoking in all public places.

Personally, as a smoker, I could care less. I don't die from not smoking in restaurants, and I don't hang out in bars very often, so that isn't that big a deal either.

But with all the public area smoking bans, some states even looking to ban smoking anywhere but one's home, etc, you have to wonder, why not just outlaw cigarettes all together? I know that the cheapo generic I just lit is shortening my life, the government and (now) tobacco industry make no bones about the fact that the nicotine in the smokes is addictive. Why are they still for sale?

The answer is of course, MONEY! Oh sure, the government will feign interest in my health by passing a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, but the truth is, they kind of hope I keep lighting up.

With states getting anywhere from $0.07 to $2.02 per pack in tax money (as of 2006), smoking is good for the state coffers, and since it's a "sin tax" most folks agree with it.

Colorado, for instance, collected nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in taxes on smokes last year. If they quit allowing cigarettes to be sold, they'd have to jack up other taxes by $50 per year for every man, woman and child in the state. Not a palatable idea for most state legislatures. That was with a tax of only $0.84 per pack (right in the middle as far as states go).

Washington State, at $2.02 per pack collected over 320 million dollars in state taxes (plus 25 million more on other tobacco products). Since they have no state income tax, to make up the money they'd have to either look to increasing their already high sales tax (6.5%) or find some other way to make up that revenue. Try and sell that idea to "Joe Public", and I'm sure it won't fly very well.

So, next time you see me light one up, instead of telling me I'm killing myself, pat me on the back, and thank me for keeping your sales and income taxes lower by buying cigarettes!

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