Sunday, November 04, 2007

Then why keep it legal?

Tim Rock looks at the human toll of smoking and questions if there really are smoking "rights." We could easily add to Tim's list more social ills caused by smoking, including the number of cigarette filters littering the countryside, a pet peeve of mine.

We would agree smoking is a terrible habit, harmful to individual and the public health. So why keep it legal?

We've banned other substances for less cause. Lead paint springs to mind.

But it's only smoking where the government, in an effort to supposedly discourage the consumption of tobacco, profits by it. Smoking is unpopular enough that while Republicans complain about the tax they'll do little to fight it's increase.

And there is the philisophical conflict, that merely because a habit is unpopular or considered "sinful", it does not necessarily follow the government should act to profit and grow from the habit. We collect the money from smokers for all sorts of "good" causes, many that have little to do with the tobacco consumption. So is the aim of the tax to collect the money from a captive, addicted, pool of taxpayers, or is it to end smoking?

We learned yesterday that, as many on the Right predicted, the tax may not collect as much revenue as desired leaving a gap in the state budget. The answer, we're told, may be tighter enforcement by the Department of Revenue of tax collections from internet sales. Is this really what we want? More government, more law enforcement, more harassment, for a few extra dollars?

Or do we truly desire a reduction in smoking?

Either end the pretense of looking for justification of taxing a class of social pariahs, or else end the habit that inspires the tax collectors. But let's not continue to profit from the sins of our fellow man and then tell him it's for his own good. It's demeaning to all involved, even as it has reached the point where it is no longer productive.