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Tobacco Taxes and the Constitutional Rights of Smokers

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Cigarette taxes and smoking laws… attacks on human rights and property rights

(6th edition - May 2008) by A.O. Kime
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The unconstitutional attack on smokers (part I) - (part II) - (part III)

As if the lessons learned from Prohibition (alcohol ban) during the 1920’s weren’t enough, not even America’s imbecilic 40-year war on drugs, a war which has cost the American taxpayers an estimated 33 billion dollars with nothing to show for it, unbelievably, it is now thought tobacco is somehow different and can be controllable through legislation. Of course, 'controllable' can have different agendas... not necessarily having anything to do with consumption.

The legislative controls in this case, which are represented by higher tobacco taxes, were not intended to cause people to quit smoking but rather to increase revenue. The state's claim that these punishment-style taxes are to encourage people to quit smoking for health reasons has only a smidgen of truth, just enough to become the facade, just like emancipation later became the government’s publicized reason for the Civil War. We should know by now, the standard procedure of government is to put a pretty face on everything... especially if it's underhanded.

As a result of this underhandedness, state legislatures have woven a constitutional issue within their wicked webs. Since unequal taxation is inequitable, it is a human rights violation... more specifically an equal rights violation. The higher tax rate on tobacco is inequitable because it doesn’t affect all citizens equally, only smokers. Targeting a minority is inequitable.

The following WAS an excerpt from "Majority Rule, Minority Rights" on the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs website... but since moved or deleted:

Minorities -- whether as a result of ethnic background, religious belief, geographic location, income level, or simply as the losers in elections or political debate -- enjoy guaranteed basic human rights that no government, and no majority, elected or not, should remove.

The additional tax hike of 80 cents for a pack of cigarettes due to Proposition 203 (Arizona) is another matter however, a separate issue. Yet, because this state allows majority rule, known for centuries as being unjust, is further evidence Arizona is not concerned about justice matters... not if it interferes with money. Whether other states allow majority rule is unknown but it is known they fly the same colors.

To insure equitability, all products on the market should be taxed at the same rate. It is a constitutional issue. Further, the cost to administer state regulations should always come out of the general fund, not funded by special taxes... after all, the whole of society benefits from the totality of laws so the cost to administer them should be equally shared. Importantly, it would help guard against future discriminatory taxes.

For centuries everyone has known smoking isn’t a healthy habit… but for many an enjoyable and relaxing habit. While it wouldn't be advisable for anyone to pick up the habit because of the cancer risk, it is only a risk... although a greater risk for some than others. Without taking some risks however, life wouldn't be worth living... just ask a skydiver, bull rider or mountain climber. Further, in the opinion of many lifelong smokers, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to quit… going to die from something anyway. Death would more likely occur from a dependence on pharmaceuticals... of benefits entirely over-sold.

Of course, do-gooders who wouldn't know cool from a jackhammer would never tell you that smokers are less likely to develop sepsis which accounts for 9.3% of the deaths in the U.S. annually.

So, if not to die of lung cancer, can the states guarantee we will die from something less horrid? In light of these tobacco controls, it seems a guarantee should come with the territory. Well, that was just a rhetorical question because tobacco taxes have nothing to do with the government's wish to prolong life... it's all about generating revenue for the state coffers. Thanks to smokers now, general services for non-smokers won't cost so much. While smoking can cause cancer in some people, or otherwise reduce a smoker’s lifespan a few years, there is a myriad of other potentially deadly hazards... most of which are legal. Automobile accidents kill about 50,000 people a year but no one dare say it's better than dying from lung cancer. Nor can one say being burned alive would be better either. One might, of course, be electrocuted... entirely legal.

Besides tobacco taxation being insidiously callous because it targets an addiction, the same as if to overtax a diabetic’s insulin, there are seven (7) reasons listed below why the smokers tax is criminal, unjust and economically detrimental:

1. States conspired with each other and the insurance industry to extort the tobacco companies

When the states finally began winning in court against the tobacco giants in the late 1990s, and while the monetary awards were legally obtained nonetheless they were fraudulently obtained. Through their use of advocacy science (external website), also known as 'junk science', the states committed wholesale perjury. In the end, it amounts to extortion. Junk science has become commonplace however and it all began when environmentalists utilized it to have DDT banned in 1972.

Aside from fraud and extortion, there exists other pitiful realties. While the complaint was that the states had been bearing the cost to treat smoking related illnesses, and true to some minuscule degree, only the reimbursement for direct aid is justifiably due the states. The monies awarded the states were also intended to provide them with funds necessary to treat future patients. While that would appear reasonable and fair, but of what little tobacco revenue does go towards their so-called 'tobacco prevention programs', the states are spending it on salaries and the printing press. Counseling smokers and inundating them with brochures on how to quit smoking doesn't do someone suffering from lung cancer much good. There is little, if any, direct aid to smokers to help defray medical costs. While counseling and brochures might seem a good way to help people kick the habit and help keep kids from smoking in the first place, incredibly most states have recently slashed even these programs despite a bonanza of additional tobacco tax revenue... see http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what_we_do/state_local/tobacco_settlement

Even though the tobacco companies shouldn't be held liable for smoker illnesses, largely due to the fact everyone has known for centuries smoking wasn't healthy, being a no-brainer, but if a smoker did have a legitimate claim, then he (or she) is entitled to compensation, not the states. Nor are the states passing it on. A similar circumstance would be if the states were awarded the death benefits from everyone's life insurance policy.

From the tobacco settlement to the endless tax increases on tobacco, the entire matter is one of the cruelest undertaking America has witnessed since Prohibition. Just as alcoholics felt the agony of an unsatisfied craving then, smokers living in poverty do now... which is a substantial number.

2. States are using the funds intended for treating smoking illnesses for other purposes

Not only was perjury committed in obtaining these victories and the amount collected being much more than what reflects actual out-of-pocket costs, but most states are using the funds intended for treating smoking illnesses for other purposes. For the shocking truth about how each of the 50 states are spending tobacco tax revenue, see http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/what_we_do/state_local/tobacco_settlement

3. States are infringing on human rights by singling out a minority for higher taxes

Flush with victory over the tobacco companies, many states then began another attack, this time on the smokers themselves by increasing taxes on tobacco to a punishing degree. It has reached a point whereby smoking has become a big-ticket item for most smokers, now a substantial portion of their household budget. The states contend that they raised taxes to discourage smoking but that is only the stated purpose… the real reason is to increase tax revenue to support their ever-increasing bloated budgets. It would be a disaster for the states if everyone quit smoking… but many smokers can’t because it is addictive. The states know that.

Of course, whether or not tobacco is addictive doesn't matter to those who don't want to quit. If you like it, who cares whether it is addictive or not?

Of course, the states also know about one's eternal drive for pleasures. It is to capitalize on it.

4. The resulting black market and cheap roll-your-own cigarettes pose a greater health risk

Whether prohibition or high taxes, a black market is inevitable which the 1920s and the current drug war has confirmed. As a result, both untaxed and counterfeit cigarettes are now widely circulating. If electing not to buy cigarettes on the black market however, where the quality of tobacco is likely poor, high taxes have driven the cost per pack so high many smokers are resorting to rolling-their-own and often smoke them without filters... creating a greater risk to one's health. In the end, the states took a 'potential' health hazard and made it worse.

Also as a result... more robberies, muggings and even some slayings. Clerks being slain over cigarettes, one would think, is a health hazard. It is an everyday occurrence.

Is it worth it?

5. Cost of smoking is hurting other businesses - less discretionary money available for other purchases

The cost of smoking has become a big-ticket item for most smokers, spending now $100-$150 per month for cigarettes (per smoker)… taking a huge bite out of their budgeted amount for incidentals. For each dollar spent on cigarette taxes is a dollar being denied other businesses… less to be spent on entertainment, eating out and for other such nonessentials. For another pack of cigarettes, most smokers will forgo a new pair of pants or a knickknack they’d like to have. The amount a state has taken out of circulation is easy to calculate… it is that state’s tobacco tax revenue. The average is $400 million annually per state. For all 50 states, an incredible $20 billion per year is being collected annually.

6. Smoking regulations imposed on private businesses are attacks on property rights

Mandating private businesses to provide a smoke-free environment, aside from violating the owner’s property rights, a 'right' dating back to the Magna Carta 800 years ago, is an act which interferes with supply and demand, the very foundation of a free marketplace. If it affects a business in a negative way, then that in itself signals it isn’t what the majority of their customers wanted. If having a smoke-free environment was truly the public sentiment, business owners would have rushed to fill the need. But it isn’t the public sentiment as the states claim. It's certainly not the case for restaurants and bars.

Further, the health risks from secondhand smoke cannot logically be made a health issue of great concern while the exhaust fumes from traffic are far worse. Household aerosols are far worse. Secondhand smoke is assuredly the least dangerous of all air contaminates. These secondhand smoke studies (junk science) cannot be trusted... after all, who sponsored them? Insurance companies and misinformed do-gooders who oppose smoking of course... while at the same time running a campaign trying to make people believe it is 'socially unacceptable'. It's 'social engineering' due to the application of political correctness.

Of course, these air contaminates would include the germs do-gooders spread as they walk around sick... having little sympathy for fellow shoppers. A puff of smoke certainly isn't dangerous but the flu often is.

7. States are taking advantage of the addiction to tobacco

How convenient for the states that tobacco is addictive. The states have turned smokers into taxpaying captives, forced now to pay tribute for their nicotine addiction. For that reason it is a very cruel tax. If cruelty is to exist, then cruelty should be evenhanded… such as over-taxing insulin. The states can claim some evenhandedness however... such as allowing the healthcare industry to rape everyone. A just tyrant, after all, is better than just a tyrant.

Although healthcare should not be a matter for government, a place where it has no business being, but since the states are, studies have shown their systems are being 'gamed' by the medical profession. This makes healthcare costs artificially high. Were the states to withdraw, healthcare costs would surely plummet 50% to 75%.

Summary

Unequal taxation amounts to subjugation, and in the smoker’s case… callous subjugation. It is clear, the states have abandoned all notions of protecting the rights of its citizens… only the pretext of protection remains. Health is not the issue in the state’s war on tobacco… the states don’t give a damn about health... zero, nada, zilch. If they did they’d be forking out their tobacco revenue on actual treatments. Further, most states have actually cut their tobacco prevention programs and in many states as much as 75% of tobacco revenue goes into their general fund. The remaining 25% is spent mainly on administrating nothingness and thus serves their empire-building agenda more than ill-affected smokers. Of little substance, these programs are empty shells with a facade psychologically engineered to reflect otherwise.

The insurance companies, as co-beneficiaries, have gained as well but they won’t be happy until tobacco is outlawed. In that the state legislatures continue to placate them is simply outrageous. Insurance companies are the scourge of modern-day society as they continually cause the usurpation of human rights through bribery (campaign contributions) to serve their own interests.

The conduct of the states is alarming, disgusting and even treasonous. In addition, to attack smoking but let alone alcohol is absurd and the height of hypocrisy. Comparatively, alcohol is 10 times worse… far worse than even marijuana or cocaine. If ‘sins’ are to be attacked, they should be attacked in order of the danger they pose. To attack only the lesser sins, and to leave the greater ones standing unchallenged, is totally hypocritical and this hypocritical posture is the main reason for substance abuse in the first place. It's a means of escape from these bizarre realities.

Perhaps some relief is in sight however. Every so often the federal government will step in to correct human rights violations by the states… like what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 accomplished. This is another such time the situation calls for it. There are some provisions within this same Civil Rights Act which would apply … and, fortunately, federal intervention is allowed in these instances as provided for in the 14th Amendment. Further, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (external website) applies.

When the day comes the United States Supreme Court rules these tobacco taxes unconstitutional, the perpetrators, the legislators who voted for this mess, should be imprisoned. After all, without lawmakers being held accountable they'll continually try sneaking something unconstitutional into law. The states should also be forced to reimburse smokers... even if it bankrupts the state, and it would. It would be a great lesson for the states.

So to hell with state’s rights… the states are proving themselves completely hostile to the idea of protecting human rights. They’ve gotten so bad the feds now look like choir boys. While once sympathetic to the Southern Cause and states rights, often wishing the South had won (the Civil War), now I’m glad they didn’t. No more gray for me… except after buying cigarettes today, I ain’t got no money left to buy blue clothes. Sorry mister and missus merchant… all my extra money went to the state treasury.

Update (March 16, 2009): Effective April 1, 2009, the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes will be increased 62 cents to $1.01 (so much for the feds being choir boys). For the feds, it's now a battle with the states for the biggest piece of the pie.

Item of Interest: The US International Trade Commission (USITC) recently closed (May, 2009) the process for all interested parties to submit their comments about the Philip Morris request to ban the purchase of cigarettes over the Internet from foreign-based websites (shipped from overseas). While we responded in opposition, as of July 19, 2009, apparently no decision has yet been reached. See alerts for more information (and to see our letter).

A.O. Kime

Last modified: 03/09/14