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I am highly agitated. I am, however, a social outcast, so it hardly matters. On the other hand, while the social outcast is shunned and punished for our faults, it turns out we are a valuable asset to those in need. And in this particular case, that just happens to be the state of Connecticut with their one billion dollar budget deficit.



What am I talking about and why should I even care about Connecticut while living in North Carolina? I care because I am a smoker, and the smokers in Connecticut are the social outcasts who had the price of their habit go up by $0.62 a pack in addition to the $0.50 tax already in place. Total tax: $1.11, third highest in the country behind only Washington at $1.42 and New York at $1.50 (effective April first).



Connecticutís cigarette tax is expected to raise 130 million dollars per year. How hard are they going to try to prevent cigarette smoking in teenagers now do you think? Not to hard it appears. Some senators tried to get an additional $0.04 added on to the tax to fund smoking prevention programs for teens and it was turned down. Why would they fund smoking prevention? It would reduce the amount of taxes they collect.



I realize our smoking habit is disgusting. It irritates non-smokers. It ruins our health, no one is going to tell me anything about smoking I donít already know. It is also addictive, just like many other drugs. We have to stand out side to smoke. Almost all public buildings are off limits for smoking. We are looked down at by society for being weak and lacking the fortitude to quit. Social outcasts.



So who do you look to when you need to raise a little petty cash in the state coffers? They know damn well that very few smokers will quit smoking because of the tax. It is an addiction, and that is what makes us such easy targets.



If the tax was used strictly to help cover health care costs that a state incurs due to providing health care for smokers, then I can agree with it. But that is not the case. Iím not privy to how Connecticut is spending their tax dollars, but I can guarantee you the entire 130 million in additional taxes they collect will not be used for smoking related programs. Probably a very small portion will benefit smokers in any way.



As far as I am concerned taxes are not implemented properly anyway. And to tax one segment of society is just plain unfair, particularly so when that segment is addicted to a drug in the product being taxed.



What gets me is that the tax increase is also touted as helping smokers. They figure that 4% of smokers quit for each 10% increase in the price of cigarettes. Thatís nice. Itís nice for the 4% who managed to quit smoking. The 96% that are left are paying the extra $0.024 added on the tax to cover the loss of revenue from the 4% of smokers who will quit! Donít think for one minute that that was not a consideration when they came up with the $0.61 figure.



I donít know where as any tax could be called fair, but it seems to me if there is a budget shortfall, the extra tax burden should be spread more evenly across the tax base. If the course you choose is to tax individual segments, then why not raise taxes for alcohol as well? And what about luxury items that the rich are addicted to? And Pepsi and Coke that children are addicted to? And Burger King And McDonalds that the entire planet is addicted to?



Or, if you want to be more realistic, how about raising the gas tax? That would encompass almost all segments of the population. You would have to somehow compensate those who make a living from driving, such as cab companies and truck drivers, but you would be taxing a much more diverse section of users that way.



I am not defending smoking. I know it is stupid. But smokers have rights. And their rights are being taken advantage of, or rather their addiction is. What do you think would happen if you raised the property taxes of all the millionaires by 5%? Wow! Thereís an idea! Raise the taxes of someone who could actually afford to pay them! I can hear it now. Why should we pay more in taxes just because we make more money? My point exactly. Why should smokers pay more in taxes just because we smoke?



Smokers are treated as social outcasts or second class citizens as it is. Itís to bad that after being labeled as such, the first class citizens call on them to supplement the programs and assistance they desire, and are at risk of loosing, at no cost to themselves.



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Comments

The following comments are for "Highly Agitated"
by The Hal

Smoke up
First, I like the way this is written. It's well written and easy to read because it pulls you right along. Great job.

On the topic I'd like to say that I agree with you. I don't smoke any longer, but the hypocracy of the politicians irks me. They say they are merely raising the taxes to help people with bad habits quit. In reality it's an easy way to fund programs with out taxing the rich, which most politicians tend to be. You see, if they really wanted to help people quit they'd merely make cigarettes illegal. Of course then they'd loose mucho tax dollars.

Thanks hal for the good read, but damn, now I'm all pissed off.

Parteepants

( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: March 2, 2002 )

no complaints
I seem to have a problem with what everyone's saying today. The last three comments of mine have been for editorials. :)

Anyways, smokers don't seem to have any valid complaints when they keep on paying for the increasingly expensive packs of cigarettes. I know people who wouldn't care if the costs rose to twice what they are now. They're not rich, either, and they're not happy about it, but they'll buy them anyways. It's not a real complaint, it seems.

It's pretty non-direct, but also think that the increase in revenues from the increase in cigarette taxes allows for cuts in other taxes that people would otherwise not enjoy. It's very reciprocal, and at the end of the day we get to try and fund public schools, no?

Tachyon One

( Posted by: TachyonOne [Member] On: March 3, 2002 )

No, not schools
The funding for schools mostly comes from local real estate taxes. A small part comes from your state's taxes and an even smaller portion comes from the federal gov't. Actually, the fed. gov't's part is so small it's almost none existent.

Most of the cigarette tax money goes to fund state run programs and expenses, like roads, institutions and salaries. By raising cigarette taxes, politicians can lower the taxes of the wealthy or at least keep them same. That's what's messed up about it. Don't tell me you're raising the cigarette tax to help smokers quit when you're already budgeting how you're going to spend the tax money raised.

Basically, it's a politically correct way to tax the poor instead of the wealthy. And I'll say it again, if they really wanted to help smokers quit, they wouldn't raise the taxes, they'd make smoking illegal.

The funny thing is, non-smokers are like, "Yeah, raise the taxes on those filthy bastards." But what's going to happen a few years down the road? While cigarette taxes don't affect them now, it will in a few years. I guarantee you'll see sin taxes on fast food, soda's and coffee. Why? because they're all addictive and it's easy to dress it up as a "noble" tax.

Anyway, that's my cent and a half.

Bye now,

Parteepants

( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: March 3, 2002 )

Re: No complaints
I guess you choose to ignore the fact that cigarette smokers are addicted to a particular substance that is only different in the sense that it is not called a drug. Do you see drug users quit because the cost goes up? No. Why? Because they are addicted. I have chosen to quit many times, and failed.

And no valid complaint? That is easy to say when you don't happen to populate a particular segment of society being targeted for unjust treatment because of their addiction.

How about if they slapped a Five dollar a month tax on internet connections? Do you think that would inspire internet users to complain about an unjust tax just because they 'choose' to get connected? Damn skippy it would. I would no sooner quit using the internet than I would quit smoking. Both are adictive habits, one is due to a particular substance, the other due to an overwelming desire to learn, communicate, or to access entertainment. Whatever.

Of course, internet users are not considered quite the social outcasts as smokers are... Our rights seem to be limited unfairly in that sense...

( Posted by: The Hal [Member] On: March 3, 2002 )





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