Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

I hate cigarettes, I do. They're stinky, they're addictive, they pollute, they comprise 90% of the litter I see in the city, and oh yeah - they kill people. Cigarettes kill lots and lots and lots of people. Cigarette companies are evil - sure. I don't smoke and I certainly don't advocate smoking... not by any stretch of the imagination. But man! The Smoking Smack Down is just out of control!

My workplace just went Tobacco Free. Which is fine... except that it's one of the biggest employers of the state. The campuses comprise about 400 acres and employ over 11,000 people. Now this isn't even counting students, patients or visitors! So it's not an insignificant gesture.

We've also got yet another new cigarette tax going on the next ballot. The extra revenue generated will go to fund insurance coverage for children. I totally support insurance coverage for kids... I do, I promise. Heck - I want everyone to have coverage. And this is one tax I wouldn't have to pay. But it all just seems wrong.

I don't even know why. I'm just tired of vilifying smokers. And frankly the idea of creating a source of funding for children's health care, while simultaneously trying to dry up that source of funding seems a bit counter-productive. I do lots of unhealthy stuff and I get nervous with the whole anti-smoking mentality. What next? Fat-Free restaurants? A tax on brie? Booze-free weddings? The thought is terrifying. Come a day there won't be room for naughty men like us to slip about....

Oh wait.

God, I need a cigarette.


Bezzie said...

Are they doing those random tests to make sure you're not smoking cigarettes at home and if you are they fire you? (Like that co. in MI). I'm cool with smoke free at work, but I have a problem with my employer telling me what I can and can't do at home on my own time.

Magatha said...

Smokers and smoking are an easy target for all those miasmic ills that no one can pin down. Easy to villify, easy to tax, easy to over-regulate.

I agree with everything you say except that tobacco companies are evil. They're no more evil than any other corporation in the universe and that includes the "Green" and "Do-Gooder" ones.

One of the best jokes ever I can paraphrase like this: The doctor just told me I have lung cancer and have only six months to live. I've never needed a cigarette more in my life. Puff Puff.

Mag~ former nicotine addict, finally got over it seven years ago and yet I still want a cigarette on a regular basis.

Eryn said...

Ooooh thank you! I am one of the vilified. I'd like to think of myself as the polite smoker - I only smoke outside, by myself (and yes, someday I'll quit). I get very frustrated with that anti-smoking attitude exactly because it could lead to the anti-fat, anti-sugar, anti-caffeine attitudes. Obesity directly or indirectly causes many health problems; will it be next? Will we have "No-Fat" Workplaces?

I think I'll stay home tomorrow and eat more fudge!

Rebel said...

Seriously! If they ever took away my caffeine (or taxed it up the ying-yang) I just couldn't function. Could you imagine the protests????

marissa said...

ok, i have to play devil's advocate here. and yes, i realize that i was once a smoker and still occasionally fall off the wagon, but i'm for the tax and this is why: things like obesity, caffiene addiction, etc only hurt the person involved in the consumption. smoking harms not only the smoker, but whoever else is breathing their smoke. AND it leaves a carbon stamp. not to mention the fetuses of smoking pregnant women. taxes are generally--and again, i realize that our government has shit all over this idea--used to benefit the community as a whole (i.e. building roads, welfare, etc). so i think it stands to reason that something that is harming the community as a whole be taxed.

Michael5000 said...

Also, smokers generate more than their share of load on the public health system, so in a sense you can justify them paying more for it. I don't like this argument for a variety of reasons, but it's an argument.

The idea, of course, is to kill two public health problems with one stone -- we'll generate revenue for kids' health care, AND discourage smoking! The PROBLEM with this idea, as I see it, is that its two ends are at war with each other. It puts the state in the awkward position of needing to keep cigarette sales high in order to finance childrens health, or screwing childrens health funding with successful antitobacco work. (This kind of thing leads to daft policy like Oregon's ass-stupid tax on hybrid and electric cars, since they don't generate their fair share of fuel tax.)

jenn said...

I'd be very interested to see some sort of statistics on changes in cigarette consumption (I mean the purchasing kind of "consumption", not the eating kind) before and after a cigarette tax. It seems to me that the demand for cigarettes is pretty inelastic, meaning that a price increase would only have a small and possibly a negligible impact on the quantity demanded. I mean, if you're addicted, you're addicted. I suppose it might encourage a person to quit, but that person is probably already thinking about and wanting to quit. So it might actually be a pretty effective source of revenue, but perhaps not an effective disincentive to current smokers.

I agree that second-hand smoke is harmful and often unpleasant, and so I don't mind people who are smoking being segregated (or self-segregating, as many thoughtfully do). And I also agree that people who smoke may put a greater burden on the health care system. But I don't think that means that they should have to pay for kids' health care. I think it means that they should have to pay more for their own health care, and that the whole of society should be paying for health insurance for kids.

And I also agree that smoking is an easily-vilified habit, despite the fact that consistently consuming a high fat, high sugar diet may actually be worse for your health than smoking. But a lot more of us eat a lot of fatty and sugary foods, and even if we know we should cut down, we would never consider giving up entirely the cheese or the dr. pepper or whatever, and we certainly don't want it taxed, nor do we want to spend more on our health insurance. The idea of having our insurance company be privy to our eating habits is creepy and Big Brother-esque, but the economic reality is that one reason why insurance is so expensive and the market for it doesn't work very well is that insurance providers don't have all of the information that they need about individual habits to price insurance appropriately.

All this talk is making me want to smoke a clove cigarette, but since I'm on the pill now it's even worse for me, so I'm going to have a beer instead. =)

Rebel said...

Ooooh hoooo look who deigns to visit my blog, Mistress J. herself!

I think you've all got valid points... I just wish we could a) come up with a more equitable (and stable) way to provide access to health care for all kids, and b) stop going after people for their bad habits.

jenn said...

yeah, yeah, i've been a slacker lately. but i don't have internet access. well, i sort of do, but only on E's computer, and only if i hold his laptop at the right angle near the window. so i'm trying to get caught up on my blog reading. but then i'm also trying to finish unpacking, so it's going kind of slow.