Charita Goshay: The new price of cigarettes will make you choke
Most people who don’t smoke probably shrugged upon hearing the news that the federal tax on tobacco has nearly tripled, from 39 cents to $1.01.
It now is cheaper to shred a dollar bill and smoke it.
The extra tax has been earmarked for children’s health insurance, which is bound to hit critical mass, given the rapid rise in childhood obesity, the percentage of which has tripled in the last 20 years.
Because of a 40-year ban on TV advertising, it’s hard for people under 40 to envision just how big a role tobacco played in our culture. Americans once smoked practically everywhere except in church — only because pews didn’t have ashtrays.
The government once distributed free cigarettes to GIs, hence the phrase “Keep your head down and smoke ’em if you got ’em.” In all the blue haze, it’s a miracle anyone in the 1950s could even see a communist sympathizer. By the 1960s, the Marlboro Man perfectly encapsulated the way Americans saw themselves: rugged, independent and able to stay on a horse.
Movies made you want to smoke. Is there any moment on film more seductive than when Paul Henreid lights Bette Davis’ cigarette in “Now, Voyager”?
But we’ve come a long way, baby. In 40 years, smoking has gone from glamorous and dashing to the social equivalent of being a leper with whooping cough.
Yabba dabba don't
Is dog-piling on smokers fair? Last month, a few astute readers rightfully had a fit over Congress’ clumsy attempt to grandfather in a 90 percent tax on corporate bonuses because it was a clear violation of the Constitution. Even people who want to tar and feather the gray suits these days still understand fairness and the rule of law.
Smokers are demonized even more than bonus-sucking bankers.
But what if the rest of us were taxed on our vices?
If you say you don’t have one, you're lying.
Why hasn’t a 300-percent excise tax been placed on Fred Flintstone-proportioned entrees, or on draft beer served in what looks like a glass bucket?
Last year, when New York Gov. David Paterson proposed an 18-percent “obesity tax” on soft drinks, he nearly was tossed into Niagara Falls. The Pepsi Co. threatened to move its headquarters to another state. By the time industry lobbyists and their rent-a-scientists descended upon Albany, that, as they say, was that.
Smokers are easy targets because in terms of health, there’s nothing remotely redemptive about tobacco. It wouldn’t even be an issue if smokers didn’t exhale, but the smoke of those who do always finds its way to those who don’t. Tobacco residue clings to a nonsmoker’s clothes like a cat that knows you don’t like her.
Moms not only used to puff around their kids but smoked even as they were expecting them. Today, you could lose custody if your toddler is overheard saying, “Lucky Strike.”
But if that same child suffered from hypertension and Type 2 diabetes for no discernible reason other than third helpings and a lack of activity, shouldn’t there be a penalty for that?