Suckin’ Butts & Other Stuff

One of the big news items here in my parts as of recent has revolved around the recent budget shortfall the state of Texas has encountered.  The state legislature has pondered a variety of measures to make the numbers work.  Unsurprisingly enough, there’s been talk of raiding the state’s rainy day fund, and laying off public sector employees.

I honestly don’t know the reason for the shortfall at this certain point in time.  I have my ideas, but when it comes down to it, I haven’t put forth the effort to go research the reason(s) behind it.  Given that it’s been in the news for the last several weeks, one would think that at least one news outlet would actually exercise some journalistic integrity and actually report on the source of the problem.  Excuse me for expecting them to do a job that goes beyond reporting on the periphery of an issue.

Whether the idea to derive new income from our collective vices has been considered, I don’t know.  Since sin taxes are part of the standard playbook in matters like this, I’d be surprised if they haven’t been pondered yet.  Casino gambling has been an ongoing suggestion around here for years.  Drug legalization tends to get some lip service as well.  Taxing tobacco rocks.

When one considers the deadly fruits born of smoking, it’s quite ironic that our government chooses to tax the hell out of it instead of criminalize it. 

But wait.

It doesn’t stop there.

Somewhere in the 90’s during one of the government’s successful lawsuits against Big Tobacco, a smoking gun memo surfaced which admitted that cigarettes were known to be addictive.  All of the different chemicals and other additives put in those things were also found to be deadly in the end as well.  In turn the government got a big payday out of the deal.  Large sums of Big Tobacco cash would be earmarked for all types of healthcare reimbursements and anti-smoking campaigns. 

Even still, the product which was deemed addictive and deadly was subsequently given a larger role in revenue production for the U.S. Government.

But you already know all of this.  I only gave the background on the reported evils of smoking to paint the scene for the ensuing verbal brilliance which is about to come.  Stay with me here.

I’m not a smoker.  I can say with 100% certainty that I haven’t lit one up in over twenty years.  Sure, I tried it out there for awhile in my younger days.  I just could never develop the desire to keep that one going.

At the same time, I have no intolerance for smokers.  Granted, I don’t want them lighting up in my house or my car.  Otherwise, when they’re exercising their demons I can still be around them without throwing a hissy fit about the evils of second hand smoke.  On a separate note, second hand smoke isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is.  Do some research.

My lack of intolerance for smokers goes so far as to empathize with their plight.  Consider what’s been done to them in the last twenty years. 

Candy CigarettesAre candy cigarettes still being manufactured?  Those sugar sticks were delicious. 

I can’t even remember the last time I saw where an ashtray was built into a new car.  Can you?  I remember riding in the back seat of my parents’ assorted sedans throughout the 70’s.  We didn’t have portable DVD players or iPods to feed our attention deficit disorders back then, so we had to make our own fun while riding in the vehicular equivalent of steerage.  The armrest on either side of the car (I always rode behind the driver) always had an ashtray built into it.  “Stop playing with that!”  Mom or Dad would always yell back to either my brother or me whenever we started the obsessive compulsive practice of opening and closing the lid on the factory stocked devices.  The distinct sound of opening and closing the lid occasionally rings clear in my head.

Those ashtrays have disappeared, however the cigarette lighters are still included.  Please don’t use common sense in trying to figure that one out.

The extinction of vehicular ashtrays isn’t the only thing that’s happened though.  Smokers have been pushed out of the office and relegated to a small space outside the building where they can do their thing.  Entire cities have instituted smoking bans in public places.  Smokers have been attacked for smoking in their own homes by neighbors with hypersensitive olfactory nerves.

That’s not all.

In the late 80’s I spent a few months working for an inconvenience store.  That was back in the days when it wasn’t so dangerous to do so.  At the time, cigarettes were $1.25 a pack.  Just as a frame of reference, the minimum wage at the time was $3.35 an hour. 

Today, the minimum wage is $7.25.  That’s a little over double what it was back then.  Inconvenience stores are still around, and cigarettes go for over four times more than they did 25 years ago. 

That’s right.  Wages have doubled and cigarette prices have quadrupled.

Don’t blame Big Tobacco for gouging smokers in order to increase their profit margin though.  Along side with the taxes leveled at the federal, state, and local levels on cigarettes which make up for around 25% of the cost, there are also hidden costs which help to pay for the all of the mandated anti-smoking campaigns.

None of this is really new though.  We all know this. 

Consider the prospect of the legalizing marijuana.   Naturally, everyone knows that a great deal of tax revenue could be derived from this.  After all, the statement goes “You can’t legislate morality, but you can tax the hell out of it.” 

What are the other downstream impacts though? 

Find everything you can which has been blamed on Big Tobacco.  Find what they’ve been accused of.  Find what they’ve admitted to.  Go research all of the restitution that Big Tobacco has had to make to the collective in order to make good on what they’ve done wrong.  Consider the attacks we’ve made on those who use the products Big Tobacco puts out, and how they’re being made to pay big for getting addicted.

That’s a lot of stuff to look at isn’t it?

Now as you comb through all of the material in hand, replace the term “Big Tobacco” with “Big Pot”. 

If you think Big Tobacco is the bad guy right now, consider how innocent they would look compared to Big Pot.  Within minutes of marijuana being decriminalized, legislation would be put forward to milk it for every taxable penny it could get in order to fund more social engineering.  Years down the road, lawsuits would crop up.  Memos would come out.  More punishment would ensue.  Even further down the road after a decade or two, there will be calls to decriminalize some of the other drugs.  As a result, we would see the emergence of Big Blow, Big Meth, and even Big Crack.

As much as I would like to consider such a premise to be hyperbole, I find it troubling to know that there are those who do actually want to decriminalize the nastier of the substances which are available to us.  I find it even more troubling to know that of all of the data available to us on problems which smoking tobacco causes, the government still continues to keep it legal.  

Money talks and hypocrisy abounds.

Randy Tharp

TharpSter is a husband to one woman, a father to two kids, a master to two dogs, an occasional cubical occupant, and unable to make up his mind on an adequate theme for this website.

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