Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Read This and Still Try to Think Tobacco Companies Care Anything About the Health of Cigarette Smokers – Tens of Millions in California to Try to Defeat Tobacco Tax Increase

How Do Tobacco Executives Solve the Problem of Not Being Able to Look At Themselves in the Mirror?  Easy – Remove the Mirrors

California voters will be given the opportunity to raise the tax on cigarettes by one dollar a pack.  Yes, that is a pretty sharp increase, but the state does not have a high tax on cigarettes now and even after if the increase is approved it will still have cheaper cigarettes than many states.

If the tax passes, California would still have only the 16th highest tax rate in the nation, at $1.87 per pack.

Still the thought of anyone smoking less is horrifying to cigarette companies. So they are spending a huge amount of money to defeat the initiative.

It has amassed nearly $50 million to kill an initiative before California voters that has been championed by cycling star Lance Armstrong and supported by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated $500,000 to its campaign.

And of course that amount is far more than supporters of the tax increase, ie the people who actually want the citizens of California to have lower heart disease and less lung cancer have been able to spend.

The $12.3 million anti-smoking groups have raised comes to about one-fourth of the $46.8 million war chest built by the major tobacco companies. The anti-tax contributions exceed those of any other federal independent expenditure committee except the "Restore Our Future" super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to recent campaign finance figures.

The cigarette companies have enlisted anti-tax groups in their campaign to inflict higher health care costs and higher cancer rates on the public.

"The tobacco companies realize that we have a like mind in opposing both tax burdens and policies that create a business-unfriendly environment," said Joel Fox, president of the Los Angeles-based Small Business Action Committee, which he said has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from tobacco companies to support anti-tax policies in the last decade. "It's the first domino of potentially taxing all kinds of products."

But this is not about public policy on taxes, it is about greed, pure and simple and unadulterated greed.  And does anyone see the irony here, that small businesses which are being crushed by health care costs are fighting policy that would ultimately reduce health care costs by lower the diseases caused by smoking.

California represents a huge market for the tobacco industry. Smokers in the state bought about 970 million packs of cigarettes — spending approximately $5.2 billion — in fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which national figures are available. Some of that money went to an existing tobacco tax, which sends 25 cents from each pack purchased to fund anti-smoking programs, provide health care services to the poor and fund tobacco-related research.

That helped reduce tobacco sales. In the 15 years after it went into effect in 1988, the industry lost $9.2 billion in pre-tax sales, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.

Then, in 2006, tobacco companies spent $66 million to defeat a previous measure that would have created an extra $2.60-per-pack tax.

It is true that smoker themselves bear a portion, maybe a large portion of the responsibility for the damage that smoking does to their lives and their health.  If they were the only ones affected we might not be as adamant about reducing smoking.  But smokers cause huge social costs by increasing the costs of health care for everyone else, and the presence of second hand smoke almost certainly causes problems for the population that does not indulge. 

So smokers, if you want to go and live in the woods by yourselves and smoke yourselves to death and not cause any costs or problems for the rest of us, that’s fine.  But when you want your self indulgence to severely harm the rest of us, the answer is that you will be allowed to smoke, but you will have to bear some of the costs that your smoking inflicts on society. 

And if tobacco companies make less money, well it’s hard to see how that should concern anyone.  And California voters please show everyone else that money cannot always buy an election, that sometimes doing the right thing wins out over massive financial opposition.

1 comment:

  1. There is also that nasty budget shortfall in California, which would be helped by the almost one billion dollars in new revenue.