Sunday, June 14, 2009

Smoking sucks.

In the May 29th edition of the Centre Daily Times (CDT) , one Billie Kay Johnson of Lewistown, PA wrote a letter to the editor expressing her disdain for the recent decision by the federal government to increase in excise taxes on tobacco products. The primary reason for her complaint is that it hurts local business, although she didn't provide an example.

The writer believes that smokers are being "unfairly singled out." Somehow this means that smokers are likely to head out of state to get their hands on cheap cigarettes. The author closes by admonishing us to "think clearly" about this.

Happy to oblige!

The excise tax that the author refers to will affect smokers in Pennsylvania by adding a $1.35 tax on a single pack of cigarettes. The tax increases in New York and New Jersey are even higher at $2.75 and $2.58 respectively. Maryland's increase is $2.00, Ohio's increase is $1.25, Delaware's increase is $1.15, and West Virginia's increase is $.55 (of course).These tax increases will take effect on July 1st.

So that means that if you live in Central Pennsylvania, you have to drive at least 2 - 3 hours to WV if you want to save money on your nicotine addiction. With gas currently at ~$2.60 per gallon, how traveling to WV to save money on one pack of cigarettes is a mystery.

This is what the the author doesn't tell you:

  • As of the time of this writing, Pennsylvania is the only state that does not have an excise tax.
  • Among the ingredients that can be found in cigarettes are over 400 toxins including - toluene, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, DDT, cadmium, and benzene. Ask any smoker if they'd willingly ingest these chemicals and they'll likely say, "No."
  • Taxes placed on tobacco products brings the states about $22 billion annually, a large portion of which goes to smoking cessation programs.
  • Use of tobacco products claim over 440,000 lives annually in the US, and 4 million worldwide.
  • Over 8 million people in the US contract illness due to smoking.
  • Tobacco-related illness costs Pennsylvanians over $5 billion annually, and about $200 billion nationally.
  • Second-hand smoke leads to at least 35,000 illnesses across the country annually.
  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the US.
  • Tobacco tax saves lives.

You get the point.

The good news is that after decades of trying to give the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products (and being stumped by the previous administration), Congress has finally succeeded. The bill is headed to President Obama who, despite struggling with his own nicotine addiction, says he is eager to sign it into law. The bill:

  • Creates a tobacco control center within the FDA and gives the FDA authority to regulate the content, marketing and sale of tobacco products to protect public health.
  • Requires tobacco companies and importers to reveal all product ingredients and seek FDA approval for any new tobacco products.
  • Allows the FDA to change tobacco product content to protect the public health.
  • Bans the use of flavors, including candies and fruit flavors, in tobacco products.
  • Calls for new rules that would prevent sales to minors except through direct, face-to-face exchanges between a retailer and a consumer. Limits advertising that could attract young smokers.
  • Strengthens warning labels.
  • Bars the use of expressions such as "light, "mild" or "low" that give the impression that a tobacco product poses less of a health risk.

So, here's a suggestion for those of you who hate the thought of driving to West Virginia to buy your cigarettes - Instead of spending all that money on gas, cigarettes, and trips to the hospital because of your nasty habit, why not spend it on a mountain bike instead and stop smoking?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Considering the long term benefits of smoking cessation such as low risk of succumbing to cancer, a significant reduction in mental stress, odorless breath et al, it is definitely necessary for you to start your quit smoking regimen as soon as possible. However, during the first few weeks, it may appear extremely difficult to get rid of this addiction, but as you consistently try to quit smoking for a certain period of time, your smoking cessation efforts would yield results.