Friday, March 9, 2007

Cigarettes and Mind-Reading

The other day I stood in line at the convenience store behind a gentleman who was buying cigarettes, beer, and scratch tickets. He wore a sharp business suit, including an expensive silk tie. He looked like a lawyer or maybe a college president.

I know what you're thinking. You have never seen such a person at a convenience store buying those items. A person dressed like that is more likely just there for gas and maybe some wine coolers.

I hate to be stereotypical, but since you thought it before I said it, I’m off the hook. I can now point out that the people most impacted by the governor's proposed cigarette tax increase are not the ones who can afford it.

“Good, maybe they'll quit,” you're now thinking. This shows that you're not quite as proficient with your stereotypes as I thought you were.

When is the last time you heard someone say, “I know these here death sticks are tenderizing my lungs, causing me to hack up gobs of phlegm the size of a basketball, and preventing me from ever seeing my grandchildren graduate from high school, but if they just cost an extra $1 more a pack, I'd give ‘em up.”

For the record, smoking is evil. I would support any form of draconian torture, even being forced to listen to the voice of Susan Collins for three straight hours, if I thought it would make someone quit. I despise cigarettes, but not the people who smoke them and who will continue to smoke them no matter what they cost.

I know people who have tried everything they can think of to quit. My grandfather tried for years to stop smoking before smoking eventually killed him. I refuse to believe such people simply don't have as much will power as the people who manage to quit. According to the Food and Drug Administration, nicotine affects different people different ways, sort of like Susan Collins' voice, which my wife insists is not that bad.

But as I read your mind, you still think the tax is a fantastic idea. Small wonder, since the media isn't bothering to tell the other side of the story on this particular issue.

The Maine Coalition on Smoking or Health (apparently they can't decide which one, smoking or health, and they'll get back to us) says 9200 extra Mainers would quit in a year as a result of their proposed $1.50 per pack tax hike.

I don't know where that figure comes from (It's not like the Bangor Daily Puppet Show will tell us); but it ignores the fact that the vast majority of smokers will, shockingly, continue to smoke. They will continue to spend hundreds of dollars a month in cigarettes instead of investing in their children’s future. Why tax impoverished children when we can tax wealthy tourists?

I know this is stereotyping. If I’m wrong about your stereotyping, email me.

The only way I would support a cigarette tax is if the money went directly to programs designed to help people quit smoking. I know what the governor is thinking, and that's not it.

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