Friday, December 16, 2005

It's time to let all addicts pay their share

I cannot believe what I am about to write: I'm starting to feel sorry for smokers. A little bit. In the past two weeks, city and county politicians have made smokers public enemy number one, and then have turned to these very same smokers as a source of salvation from budget woes. First, Chicago banned smoking in most public places; Cook County has a proposal to make that ban more complete more quickly. Then, both the city and proposed county budgets included massive tax hikes to help balance the books "without raising taxes."

In summary:

* The Cook County cigarette tax will probably double to $2 per pack.

* Chicago just raised its cigarette tax another 20 cents.

* Earlier in the year, the governor proposed a 75-cent state tax increase, but that idea failed. Another proposal could be on the way.

* By Jan. 1, these increases will bring the total to $4.05 per pack, just in federal, state and local taxes.

* I'm running out of math here, but it seems we're looking at the $8-$9 range per pack in 2006.

Being a nonsmoker my immediate response to all this is Fine! Screw them smokers!! Make them pay for their filthy habit!!! Maybe more will quit this way!!!! On second thought, though, even I can see how utterly unfair all this is. As a society we pretend to vilify this habit, but goddamn, do we ever rely on the addicts. If we ever actually banned the sale of cigarettes completely, there's no way we'd balance budgets. Living in this town would get so much more expensive with higher taxes on everything else.

So, if we're going to tax the hell out of dangerous, addictive products, there really is only one solution: End the war and legalize drugs. All of them. Put some government control on the darned things to make them safer, eliminate the majority of crime in one fell swoop, and reap the benefits of all those new taxes. And (this will be the last time I say this) let's give cigarette smokers a break for once.


Anonymous Ms. H. said...

These heavy taxes on cigarettes are also another way of making the poor pay a disproportionate share of the cost of keeping this ship afloat.

8:21 AM  

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