November 5, 2004
By Mike Krause
Tobacco users in Colorado deserve a pat on the back and heartfelt thanks.
In fact, Coloradoans who dont smoke should consider taking up the habit. You see, smoking is cool again. While probably not what tobacco tax proponents had in mind, thanks to the fuzzy logic and inherent contradictions of Amendment 35, cigarette smoking is now a civic virtue; and the anti-smoking wing of the life-style police (hereafter known as LIPOS) are just greedy people who want to deny health care dollars to children.
The new tobacco tax passed by a landslide, which should come as no surprise. Amendment 35 is a nifty piece of political theatrics, allowing a majority of people (non-smokers) to believe they are doing a good deed while at the same time punishing bad people (smokers) by making them foot the bill.
As the earnest kid who tried to convince me to sign a petition some months back boiled it down, would you be willing to raise taxes on cigarettes for childrens health care?
It may as well have been a referendum on whether puppies are cute.
In reality, it is smokers who are doing the good deed and it is the majority who voted yes on 35 that made it so.
The lions share of the assumed $175 million a year Amendment 35 will generate goes to expanding access to primary care health centers, Medicaid and Colorados Child Health Plan Plus. In other words, smokers will be helping out the poor, the uninsured, and most importantly, the children.
But 16 percent of Amendment 35 money also funds tobacco prevention and smoking cessation programs. This is more accurately described as smokers being forced to keep untold numbers of LIPOS in the professional busy-body industry and away from any gainful employment.
In other words, before Amendment 35 has even begun (the tax starts in January 2005 and the programs begin in 2006), the greedy LIPOS behind the amendment already have denied children and the uninsured 16 percent of the tobacco tax dollars.
It gets worse. Lets say that the LIPOS, using the money they take away from the children, successfully convince even 5 percent of Colorado smokers to quit and another 5 percent never to start. Thats 5 percent fewer smokers funding health care and another 5 percent loss from those who would have begun paying the tobacco tax.
In other words, when the LIPOS win, the children lose. Fewer existing smokers mean fewer dollars for health care. Fewer new smokers mean fewer tax-dollar generating puffers to pick up the slack as old smokers die off. Without a steady flow of new smokers, Amendment 35 is self-defeating. The LIPOS can always move on to other nanny-state targets such as white sugar, red meat and black label scotch, but what about the children? The obvious answer is Colorado needs more smokers.
If you already smoke, again good job, you are performing a valuable civic duty and deserve a gold-plated Zippo lighter embossed with the Colorado state seal. This, of course, should come out of the LIPOS share of the tobacco tax. It’s the least they could do.
If you are an ex-smoker, dont worry, its a lot like riding a bike. In a few short weeks, you should be comfortably back in the saddle, just like the Marlboro Man. Best part is you can do it guilt free, as a majority of Colorado voters have given you the go ahead.
If you have never smoked, what the heck are you waiting for? If you start now and work at it, when January rolls around and the new tax kicks in you could easily be up to a pack a day and be doing your part for health care in Colorado.
And if any LIPOS want to give you a hard time about lighting up, just remind them you are doing it for the children and it was their idea in the first place.
The Independence Institute 13952 Denver West Parkway, Suite 400 Golden, CO 80401 303-279-6536
INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE is a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank. It is governed by a statewide board of trustees and holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS. Its public policy research focuses on economic growth, education reform, local government effectiveness, and Constitutional rights.
JON CALDARA is the President of the Independence Institute.
MIKE KRAUSE is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute.
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