Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Smokers of the World Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Butts!

Ken O’Brien

There is a widely held belief that liberals favor a nanny state.

Well, I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe that there is a fundamental and natural convergence of values between libertarians and liberals.

I start from the premise that anyone who makes an objective evaluation of history will conclude that the basic difference between conservatives and liberals is as follows; the primary concern of conservatives is property values: the primary concern of liberals is human values.

Liberals, Conservatives and Libertarians all proclaim their devotion to freedom.

But freedom toward what end? 

To put it as simply as possible, life in an organized society should not merely allow but enable an individual to do as they please provided that it does not infringe upon the welfare of others. Aristotle phrased it as the ability of citizens to exercise vital powers along lines of excellence affording them scope.

Having espoused all that highbrow philosophizing, I will now move from the sublime to the (to some) ridiculous.

For over forty years I have been a (GASP!) smoker of cigarettes.

I realize it is an unhealthy habit. I have always asked in an appropriate setting if anyone minded if I lit up. I have observed all the laws that prohibit smoking where it might infringe upon the health of others.

But I believe that it has come to the point where smokers have become an exploited minority.

It now costs between $8 and $11 to buy a pack of cigarettes in Massachusetts.

I recently decided that had become absurd. Consequently I decided to roll my own. I can do that for less than $2.50 a pack.

Well, I was not alone.

Over the last several years there has been an upsurge nationwide in people rolling their own cigarettes as well as small businesses selling loose tobacco and papers and assembling them for customers.

The result?

As reported by the Huffington Post on July 3, 2012, “A measure sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and tucked inside the [transportation] bill could spell the end for hundreds of ‘roll-your-own’ tobacco stores that have sprouted up across the nation in recent years, shop owners and tobacco experts said…. ’This law is not designed for people to comply with,’said Phil Acordino, president of RYO Machines, which began manufacturing roll-your-own cigarette machines in 2008.
’It’s designed to put these people out of business’," he said. "’They couldn’t get a manufacturer’s permit if they wanted to.’”

The motive for such actions might be assumed to be the actions of “left-wing liberals” who want to dictate that people quit smoking.

If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge you can buy.

As the Consumerist reported, “Since state and local governments began slapping heavy taxes on cigarettes, a number of smokers have managed to pay less by buying loose tobacco and rolling their own. But as a growing number of stores have begun offering free-to-use roll-your-own machines that take the loose material and spit out a pile of smokes that look like they came straight out of the carton, some lawmakers are crying foul.
‘It’s a willful attempt to evade the tax that is in Massachusetts,’ says State Senator James Timilty to WBZ-TV. ‘We should shut them down.’
A man who sells some of the roll-your-own machines to stores figures that Massachusetts is losing out on around $13 million/year while the feds miss out on $5 million in taxes that would have been collected had people bought pre-manufactured cigarettes instead.”

Now, all that was back in 2012. Since then Obama has signed that transportation bill.

Well, you can still buy loose tobacco and cigarette papers locally. But try going on line and buying loose cigarette tobacco.

The reality is that state and local governments are exploiting a group of social pariahs (i.e. smokers) as a source of tax revenue. Even more insidious, they are exploiting a group that is drug addicted. Numerous studies have shown that nicotine addiction is more severe than that for cocaine. To add insult to injury, a cursory review of history will show that for decades the government encouraged such an addiction.

The Huffington Post went on to report, “Large tobacco companies have fought hard alongside health groups -– an unlikely bedfellow –- to win increased taxes and stricter health standards at roll-your-own smoke shops.”

Interesting convergence of interests. Companies that want to restrict competition, governments that want to preserve and expand a revenue source and social activists who want to preserve their viability after any reasonable goals have been achieved.

Let me ask you a question. When was the last time someone was considered a driving hazard because they were under the influence of nicotine? How about marijuana?

But we have a sudden rush to decriminalize or even legalize marijuana. Wait for the tax impact!

How about the crackdown on E-cigarettes? You can’t use them on airplanes. You can’t use them in restaurants. But the only byproduct is water vapor. Where is the health risk to others? Nowhere, of course. But, God forbid the above mentioned beneficiaries of the anti-cigarette mania lose their platform.

The largest criminal empires in America had their origin in the attempt to outlaw alcohol. We all know how that turned out.

But it was the tax law that brought down the kingpins of that era. However, we still live with the criminal networks that were created then.

Since then we have used both laws and tax codes to deal with drug issues. How well has the “war on drugs” worked out? Ask the people who will be vying for marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts over the coming months.

Now we are creating the same fertile soil for crime and corruption for a far less socially damaging purpose. People will continue to smoke. Nicotine is an addiction. That is why it is taxed. It is what economists call a source of inelastic demand. And those who want (need) it will turn to any available source that they can afford.

The reality of this is that I can buy a twelve pack of beer for about the same price as a pack of cigarettes. When you’re out on that dark country road in the middle of the night who is the greater risk? If you are going to exploit anybody, which is of greater social value?

Anxious to hear from my Libertarian friends on this.


  1. Courvoisier Cognac & Cigarettes...“The Ultimate Combination”!

  2. Bette Davis Would Simply ...August 27, 2013 at 8:00 AM


  3. The girl’s bathroom wasn’t so bad either! <3

  4. Cheap Thrills - Ball and Chain (with lyrics).


  5. <3(Love)Molly Kathleen Ringwald

  6. If the smoke doesn’t kill ya; the per pack price ($$$) will. Kinda like Southbridge’s Real Estate Taxes!

  7. Anybody can do a cover - Brownsville Station wrote and made this a classic

    John Rolfe a colonist In Jamestown first grew tobacco in 1612 - Tobacco was the very first industry of this nation. You could say this country was born on the back of Tobacco production. Much like every other American industry the Government wants to outsource it and over regulate it.

    Glad to see you still support Capitalism.


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