Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
A so-called “sin” tax, the cigarette tax is one that even those who hate tax increases can go along with if push comes to shove.
Why? Because people not only hate smoking, they hate smokers. A downtrodden lot in society, smokers have become pariahs, outcasts, a group to look down your noses at.
The disdain is so strong that one state wants to trample all over the individual rights of people who light up. (Remember, whether you like it or not, smoking is legal).
Tennessee’s cigarette tax has jumped from 20 cents to 62 cents. In an effort to stop bootleg cigarettes from coming into their state, Tennessee has just approved a law that if people buy more than two cartons of smokes outside of the state, their cars can be seized and they can be put behind bars. Tennessee revenue officials are reportedly spying on stores in other states to nab offenders.
Tennessee has already begun its surveillance of Tennessee residents sneaking across the border to buy cigarettes in other states where the cigarette tax isn’t as high.
According to a Knoxville newspaper, the idea is for the monitoring agent to spot a person buying cigarettes in volume at an out-of-state market, then departing in a vehicle with Tennessee license tags. Monitoring agents spotting such a suspect will call an arresting agent who will stop the car when it enters Tennessee. Conditions must be pretty rosy in the Volunteer state if government resources can be allocated to entrap cigarette purchasers.
David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times that smokers are, “generally much poorer than average Americans and much less educated. High school dropouts smoke at roughly three times the rates of college graduates. They are also among the most demoralized people in society. Recent sociological research shows that most Americans regard smoking as a sign of low-class, unattractive behavior — and most smokers see it this way, too. Research by Kip Viscusi of Harvard suggests that smokers actually overestimate the dangers of their habit; they believe they are killing themselves even faster than they really are.”
Harvard’s Viscusi contends smokers actually save taxpayers money. They tend to die earlier than nonsmokers, they do not consume as much health care in old age or draw on Social Security as much as nonsmokers do. In 1997, the New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study that determined that total health care spending would go up, not down, if everyone stopped smoking.
Society doesn’t care. They’re just nasty, evil, dirty smokers. Stick it to ‘em. And boy, have we.
Since 1994, the average cigarette tax (state and federal combined) has tripled, rising from 50 cents to $1.46, an increase of more than 100 percent in real terms. Because smokers tend to die earlier than nonsmokers, they do not consume as much health care in old age or draw on Social Security as much as nonsmokers do. Leaving aside Social Security savings, a 1997 study in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that total health care spending would go up, not down, if everyone stopped smoking.
Even if smoking does, on balance, increase government outlays, a 1994 report from the Congressional Research Service concluded that cigarette taxes in all likelihood already covered any external costs that reasonably could be attributed to smoking. Since then, the average cigarette tax (state and federal combined) has tripled, rising from 50 cents to $1.46, an increase of more than 100 percent in real terms. And that's not counting the price hike needed to fund the tobacco companies' settlement payments to the states. No other federal tax hurts the poor more than the cigarette tax. That’s according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. that says, “The burden of (a) proposed cigarette tax hike on the lowest-earning 20 percent of households is 37 times heavier than it would be if the government raised the money with the federal income tax.”
The attitude on Capitol Hill and in statehouses all across America, including Madison seems to be, who cares?
Non-smokers should think twice about being so fast to slam smokers in the pocketbook. When government is through tossing smokers out on the street and stomping them out with their heels, who and what will be their next target?
They never run out of ways to nail you. Someday, it could be you, non-smoker…