New York’s poor crippled by cigarette taxes, but ACS finds that delightful

posted by Carl V Phillips

[bear with me, this really is, at its core, about anti-THR lies]

A recent study concluded that new regulations requiring more humane treatment of animals in agriculture are imposing a serious burden on the poor by increasing meat prices.  The AP / New York Times story that reported this was dominated by statements by the American Vegetarian Society praising the finding because it represented yet another reason that the poor should just be forced to stop eating meat.

That was totally false, as you no doubt recognized.  You may not know that humane treatment of animals does not actually impose a noticeable cost burden on consumers.  But you probably figured that the mainstream press would not feature comments about how the poor should just be forced to conform to one organization’s prescription for their behavior.  You might have also figured (correctly) that no serious organization that is concerned with humane animal agriculture would say something so inhumane.

So, how about:

A recent study found that gasoline prices are having an devastating impact on the poor.  The AP / New York Times story that reported this was dominated by statements by Greenpeace praising the finding because it represented yet another reason that the poor should just be forced to stop driving.

Again, as much as Greenpeace has behaved antisocially lately, it is really difficult to imagine them saying something quite so appalling, and even less likely that the press would feature such claims.

And yet the AP/NYT did report:

Low-income smokers in New York spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes, according to a new study, which led advocates for smokers’ rights to say it proved high taxes were regressive and ineffective. The American Cancer Society said that the study, using state data, showed a need to help more poor New Yorkers quit smoking or never start.

The second sentence of the article, and a large portion of the rest of it, consisted of the American Cancer Society trying to spin this as not bad news at all, and all the more reason to keep pursuing the anti-smoking policies that caused this problem because, hey, the problem is actually a good thing

The study confirmed what any thinking person realizes:  That cigarette taxes (which are most of the cost of a pack of cigarettes in New York and many other places), as with most other elements of the Drug War, are devastating for the poor, but have minimal effect on the ruling class.  Indeed, the study found that (a) smokers with incomes of $60,000 or more spent only about 2% of their income on cigarettes and (b) there has been no substantial reduction in smoking among the poor this century, despite this intense punishment that is being inflicted upon them.

“Punishment” is clearly the right word.  It is very clear that ACS and similar wannabe social engineers are of the opinion that anyone who does not obey their diktats about proper behavior deserves to suffer until they obey.  They seem to be unconcerned with the facts that not everyone wants “help” becoming nicotine/tobacco abstinent, and in any case, that no one knows any way to better “help” them.  Those claims implicit in their position — that everyone wants to be tobacco/nicotine abstinent and that there are methods that could dramatically increase abstinence — are the two biggest anti-THR lies.

ACS is suggesting that they know how to get everyone to quit smoking (without THR, which they oppose), if only “more” was done.  Really?  So why, exactly, are they and their allies not deploying some of these brilliant methods using the billions of dollars they are already spending on ineffective and barely effective methods?  Are they constrained by a rule that says they need to try everything they can think of that does not work before providing this miraculous “more help” they are proposing?  If so they probably have secret plans to balance the federal budget and win our land wars in Asia too.

Neither ACS nor the spokesman for the state government (quoted later in the article) expressed any hint of regret that their policies were hammering the poor.  To them, the poor are not people, not human beings with preferences and possibly with few pleasures in life that are as good as smoking, but merely objects to be manipulated.  Any politically progressive person — anyone who genuinely cares about the poor and regressive taxes and the like — who donates to ACS or supports the anti-tobacco front of the Drug War should be required to read that article (and perhaps also given a little smack on the head for good measure).

The anti-t0bacco war is often characterized as being a project of the “left”.  But no one who supports this war on people-who-suffer-difficulties deserves the positive connotations of “left”; they represent only the negative connotations of that word.  Tobacco taxes are apparently causing people to needlessly go hungry.  That is “left”only in the sense of Mao or Stalin, not in any sense that any progressive should embrace.

Honest anti-smoking activists who actually cared about people might react to the new study by saying, “it looks like THR is the only rational solution.”  They would at least say, “oops, what we are doing seems to be badly hurting the worst off among us and doing no apparent good — maybe we should rethink it.”  But these people do not care:  “The poor are spending 25% of their income on our regressive taxes?  Great!  Turn the screws even more, and pretty soon they will obey us, the masters of the universe who poor people are supposed to obey.”

3 responses to “New York’s poor crippled by cigarette taxes, but ACS finds that delightful

  1. Excellent blog.

  2. “But these people do not care: “The poor are spending 25% of their income on our regressive taxes? Great! Turn the screws even more, and pretty soon they will obey us,”

    Well said Carl! The Antis’ tax arguments are like their other arguments: Lies. If the smoking rate goes down they claim they need more money to increase their successful policies. If it goes up they claim they need more money to make their policies work. If it stays the same they claim they need more money to get over the “sticking point” that must be caused by all those pro-smoking commercials people are seeing on TV… or somewhere… or other…

    Imagine how easily the problem talked about in this article could be solved. Roughly speaking, if poor people are spending a quarter of their income in NYC on cigarettes, that’s probably about $100 a week out of about $400 a week. At least $80 of that is punitive taxation. Tax cigarettes like other items and VOILA! instead of spending 23% of their income on tobacco the poor will now be spending only 5% of their income on tobacco. Problem solved!

    Of course such an obvious solution would never be considered, much less tolerated. The further impoverishment of the poor is just “collateral damage” to the antismoking crusaders. If the kids have to suffer because their parents are “addicted” well, too bad. Or, wait a minute, maybe they’re NOT really “addicted” and raising the taxes just a bit more will convince them to quite their silly little habit? Which side of the street will the crusaders cross to next?

    Well written!

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  3. Pingback: More defense of punishing taxes (and the fundamental anti-THR lies) from the tobacco control industry | Anti-THR Lie of the Day

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