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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Puffed up

Get 'em while they're still (relatively) cheap, smokers:

INDIANAPOLIS — Public health may bump up against politics as lawmakers step into a debate over doubling the state’s cigarette tax.

For anti-tobacco advocates, the argument is simple. An extra $1 for a pack of cigarettes will cut smoking rates and lead to billions of dollars in health care savings for individuals and the state.

“It’s the single best tool we have to reduce smoking,” said Bryan Hannon, an anti-tobacco advocate with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

[. . .]

Advocates say a tax hike will help put a dent in smoking. In 2007, when Indiana added 44 cents to the price of a pack, cigarette sales dropped nearly 18 percent — almost 100 million packs in the first nine months. Back then, Indiana had the sixth-worst smoking rate in the country. It now ranks 11th, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is usually at least a small economic component to this issue. States need money, so they enact taxes, and what better thing to tax than our vices? But as far as I can tell there isn't one this time around. And why would there be? The state is sitting on a $2 billion surplus that it's reluctant to spend, so it doesn't exactly need the money.

So this is just about modifying our behavior. Yeah, yeah, public health, second-hand smoke, I get it. But it's not like they never try to change us in areas of no public concern whatsoever. (Yeah, talking about you, Michelle).  A certain amount of this is to be expected. People wouldn't run for office if they didn't think they knew what was best for us. But there is a tipping point, and I think we reached it a long time ago.