Don’t forget — tomorrow’s our anniversary!

Received this e-mail from one of the folks working against the tide to raise the cigarette tax:

Dear Brad,
        This Sunday, July 1 marks the 30th anniversary since South Carolina’s last cigarette tax increase. (July 1, 1977)
        The South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative is very appreciative of the editorial support that The State has lent to this issue for many years, and particularly this year. I know that John O’Connor is already working on a story about the cigarette tax to run this Sunday, and I’d like to ask you to consider writing an editorial to accompany that article and to highlight this unfortunate anniversary. Obviously, we had hoped that we could get this legislation passed before the July 1 date, but we are certainly thankful to be closer to an increase than we have been in 30 years.
        As you know, the SC Tobacco Collaborative and our member organizations (American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, South Carolina Cancer Alliance, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, etc) strongly support an increase that would bring our state’s cigarette tax to the national average. When we started this legislative session, the national average had just reached $1.02. While our legislature was in session, four other states passed cigarette tax increases, meaning that the national average has climbed to $1.06. We’re not just falling further behind each year that we fail to pass this tax — we are literally falling further behind each month that we fail to pass this tax. Most notably, Tennessee passed a 42-cent tax increase, which will bring their cigarette tax to 62 cents per pack, and increase the southeastern average.
        The South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative will continue to build our grassroots support over the next six months. We are greatly optimistic that the Senate will pass this tax very early next session and will do everything we can to keep this issue in front of legislators and the citizens who vote for them.

    Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions!


    Kelly Davis
    Cigarette Tax Campaign Coordinator
    SC Tobacco Collaborative

This message was sent on Thursday, but I’m just reading it at a little before 9 p.m. Friday. Sunday’s page is gone, and I can tell you it contains no editorial on this subject (although I do make a passing reference to it in my Sunday column). I haven’t the slightest idea whether the newsroom will have a story on this or not Sunday. One can only guess about such things. In fact, such outside sources are more likely to know what the newsroom’s doing than I am (by design), but they can’t possibly know for sure.

But I do know this — as the memo says, no action can be taken for another six months. Time enough to write about it between now and then.

33 thoughts on “Don’t forget — tomorrow’s our anniversary!

  1. Herb Brasher

    Brad, I can’t read this text. The fonts on the other posts aren’t distorted, so I’m wondering if this is not the fault of my machine or browser, or something different.

  2. Brad Warthen

    I wonder, if this is “idiotic,” what sort of tax increase Lex would consider NOT to be idiotic. And if there IS no such tax increase, then he’s being redundant.
    It would also mean that there is no point in paying any attention to him. Anyone who would consider ANY tax increase at all, or any tax CUT at all, idiotic would be someone who does not think, and therefore has nothing to add to any debate on taxation.

  3. LexWolf

    I’ve posted at least 3 times already why this is an idiotic tax. I can’t help it if you can’t be bothered to read and become better informed. As it is, you have so many beliefs that are dead wrong that it’s not even funny anymore. Check out those links below – get some real facts into your head, man!!
    Here’s just one of those posts from this thread, once again:
    “Study after study has shown that if you raise the price per pack, fewer kids become nicotine addicts.”
    There’s another canard that never seems to go away (can you cite, oh say 5 of those studies?). In western Europe, cigarettes have cost $4 to $6 for at least 4 decades yet more Europeans, and yes more European kids smoke than here and, yes again, more of them become nicotine addicts than here. It’s absolute hokum yet big-government ideologues continue to believe this claptrap.
    Here for example are last year’s cigarette prices in various European countries (the article is in French but the table is pretty self-explanatory even for non-French speakers). 1 Euro is about $1.36 so the 7.40 Euros in the UK (aka Royaume-Uni) is slightly over $10 a pack, the 4.50 Euros in Germany (aka Allemagne) is $6.12 and France charges $6.80. Even low-tax Luxembourg charges $3.94. Even after this tax hike, Marlboros in SC still should be available for $2.70 or so if you buy them by the carton and maybe $3.50 for single packs. Far less for cheaper brands.
    Yet the smoking rates for 11 to 15-year-olds in the US are already 4th lowest of 26 European countries, Canada and the US for boys, and 10th lowest for girls.
    Hate to break it to ya, Brad, but once again you’re all wrong in what you think you know.
    Posted by: LexWolf | Apr 29, 2007 1:00:35 AM

  4. ed

    What’s the matter Brad…speechless? Lexwolf is right of course, taxes are an unsophisticated tool for shaping public behaviour, at best. It’s not just that however, it is that they are unfair. The people that your tax will hurt the most are exactly the people that you piss and moan about when you tell us how regressive taxes on food are. The ones that can least afford it are exactly the ones who will pay the bulk of increased tobacco costs caused by increased taxes. I think you pretty much know this, and yet you advocate tirelessly to give government this financial windfall on the backs of poor South Carolinians. It makes no sense to me, but then I’m not a newspaper editor. Guess I’m not a member of the eliete that can see these things correctly. Ed

  5. Herb Brasher

    Lex, maybe you should try reading something that disagrees with your point of view. Your simplistic conclusions leave out a lot of factors, including especially the effect of advertising, and also sociological factors, which I suspect play a huge role in this whole question. When the wall came down in ’89, the tobacco companies were out in Berlin in full force passing out free cigarette samples, in order to hook as many people as they could. My own observation, after many years in youth work, is that smoking rates among young people are directly related to the way it is marketed. I grew up thinking that smoking must be cool, sexy, and enjoyable—and where did I get that? Not from my uncle’s hospital X-rays, obviously (hooked at 16, he died of cancer at 49). I got it from the advertising industry, including Hollywood, which is, I’m sure, the industry’s biggest marketing tool overseas.
    Some of us are convinced that government should protect its citizens. In this case, it means protect them from the free market, and the wolves that use it to seduce young and old to addictions that they can profit from. Serious studies do seem to show that, in the U.S. under present circumstances, higher cigarette taxes reduce smoking rates in general. See also
    And of course you didn’t answer Brad’s assertion that your basic ideology is: “it doesn’t matter what kind of tax it is—I’m ag’in it.”

  6. LexWolf

    My man Herb, I actually read that little piece to which you linked. Other than warbling on about the evils of smoking (with which even I readily agree) it’s nothing more than a rehash of the laughable claims I already debunked above.
    Yeah, if only we increased the cigarette tax our fellow citizens and kids would magically cut down on smoking. Suuuuure! If you really believe that then I have a bridge and some swampland to sell ya. If there were truly any correlation between the cigarette tax and smoking rates then Europeans would long ago have gotten rid of their filthy habit and Americans would all have lung cancer by now. Obviously the facts show the utter foolishness of the “thinking” of the likes of you and Brad.
    If you are so much against smoking why not just impose a $20 tax per pack? Why fool around with 60 cents or other chump change amounts? If smoking is so bad, why not just outlaw it? After all that’s your ultimate aim anyway so just show your true colors and get on the stick right now! $20, $30, $100 a pack – the sky’s the limit!
    I do like the property tax by the way. It’s so nicely painful – many people actually have to write out big checks for it without those “refunds” to soften up the impact – and politicians are therefore very careful about raising it. In fact they are falling all over themselves to keep the property tax low or even eliminate it. Can’t have any painful taxes after all – so much better to fleece the people a few dollars here, a few dollars there so they don’t even notice how badly they are being shorn.
    I’m firmly convinced that “good” taxes should bite severely, all the better to hold down the size of those taxes. If we abolished withholding and people had to write their income tax checks once a year they would be clamoring so loudly that the size of government would be cut by 20% or 30% virtually overnight. If I had my druthers all taxes would have to be paid in lump sums once a year.

  7. ed

    Lex, your point about raising the taxes collected on tobacco sales to astronomical levels is outstanding, but it errs in one detail.
    I think that people like Brad and Herb should have some courage and take the intellectually honest position, which is that they should advocate for the total ban of tobacco use in this country. Herb makes the point that tobacco use is deadly, and I completely agree. He then says that “some of us are convinced that government should protect its’ citizens.” Well. Why not be brave and intellectually honest and simply advocate for the total ban of tobacco then? Surely if governments’ role is to protect its’ citizens, the most effective way to do it is to ban the offending substance. This certainly would be more effective than tax increases. And they shouldn’t try to weasel out and say that tobacco use is too widespread…that hasn’t stopped government banning alcohol use by people under 18 years of age. And it hasn’t stopped the ban under penalty of law of illegal drug use. Government has the power to declare marijuana use largely illegal and has done so. It can do so with tobacco as well, and should under Herbs’ scheme. Why aren’t people like Herb advancing that idea, rather than giving government a tax revenue windfall on the backs of folks who can least afford it? Ed

  8. ed

    Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think it’s any of the governments’ business whether anyone uses tobacco. And, I steadfastly believe that it is immoral for the government to use the extraction/extortion of tax money from its’ citizens solely for the purpose of modifying their behaviour. Herb simplifies our (Lex and my) position in order to ridicule it and avoid real debate. Herb wants people to believe that we’re against all taxes, and uses this ridiculous canard to enable him to advance his arguement without having to answer legitimate and hard questions. Nice try Herb. But no cigar. (Tobacco pun intended). Ed

  9. bill

    Cigarette smuggling was one of the main sources of funding for the 9/11 attacks.
    South Carolinians can feel proud.For nicotine dealers,this state is a heavenly haven.

  10. ed

    Either ban it completely or nationalize all tobacco farms and make it free. The first would not get rid of smugglers, but it probably wouldn’t make the smuggling problem much worse. Raising taxes on tobacco until the point is reached that supposedly no one would use it is a weak and and workable idea…and it would almost CERTAINLY aggravate the smuggling problem. Taxes are among the primary reasons people smuggle cigarettes now. I think nanny-staters like Brad and Herb are wrong on many points, but the use of taxation to achieve the behaviours they happen to like is one of the most evil ideas I can think of. Ed

  11. Herb Brasher

    Well. Why not be brave and intellectually honest and simply advocate for the total ban of tobacco then? Surely if governments’ role is to protect its’ citizens, the most effective way to do it is to ban the offending substance. This certainly would be more effective than tax increases.

    Well, there might be things I would like to see, but there is one thing about the political process that you guys don’t seem to understand. I have to advocate something that we can reasonably hope to achieve. It’s called forging compromises in a democracy. You guys don’t seem to understand that–for you, it’s all or nothing. One extreme or the other. The idea that one might have to accept some kind of compromise in order to even get close to a better situation–well, no go for you.
    Actually, if we can’t ban it altogether, which we obviously can’t, then $60 a pack wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I’ll settle for 60 cents. Of course that doesn’t sit well with Lex and Ed because I fear that you care more about your ideology than about the welfare of people. That, coming from someone like Ed, who claims to be a Christian, seems strange to me, especially when Jesus said that if someone causes a “little one to stumble, it would be better if that person had never been born.” Surely sitting idly by while industry hooks kids on toxins at least comes close to that statement.
    Read another study in US News and World Report today about second-hand smoke and the harm to pregnant women and newborns. But that probably doesn’t Lex’s parameters, either. So jettison the data, if the data doesn’t fit the ideology.

  12. LexWolf

    USNWR doesn’t publish studies, Herb. They may publish articles about studies, usually written by someone with no clue about the subject matter who wants to get his personal views across. Could you link to the actual study perhaps, Herb?
    Alas I’m all too familiar with political compromise and incrementalism. This is how your crowd manages to intrude more and more in our lives. Just look at 30 years ago or so when smoking even in airplanes was still legal. If your guys had told people back then that they wanted to ban smoking in all public places and even in people’s homes there’s no way they would have gotten anywhere at all. Instead it’s been an inch or two every year. You guys have perfected frog-boiling to such an art form that most people don’t even realize the loss of their freedoms until it’s too late.

  13. bud

    If your guys had told people back then that they wanted to ban smoking in all public places and even in people’s homes there’s no way they would have gotten anywhere at all.
    Nobody is seriously proposing a smoking ban in people’s homes. At least stick with facts when you try to make a point.
    So tell me Lex, how has banning smoking on airplanes made anyone’s life worse? Life in public is soooooooooooooo much better. Why would anyone argue for a return to the smoke-filled nightmare of yesteryear? Freedom is on the march!

  14. LexWolf

    Bill, to you it may be progress. To others it may be the road to serfdom.
    Bud, no problem with banning smoking on airplanes but since then we’ve gone way too far in abridging people’s freedom. Yes there are efforts to ban smoking in your own home.

  15. Ready to Hurl

    Lex’s motto: “Either I have the God-given liberty to make you inhale carcinogenic substances in public places or we’re all on the road to serfdom!”

  16. bud

    Lex, none of this would be an issue if the smoking zealots had not tried to ram their nasty, unhealthy habit down our throats (and lungs) in the first place. If you don’t like the anti-smoking movement then assign the blame where it properly belongs: the rude, obnoxious smoking crowd.

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