FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 11, 2010
Contact Audrey Silk, NYC C.L.A.S.H., (917) 888-9317
ALBANY, STOP GROPING OUR BUTTS Established in 2000 with a particular eye on New York, NYC C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment) has grown into a nationally active grassroots organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and protecting the interests of adults who choose to smoke tobacco. ____________________________
If smoking is an addiction then it's Albany officials who are the addicts that are smoking a segment of society down to the filter for the money.
We're informed adults who choose to smoke cigarettes. We know we're unpopular. Except for true grassroots groups such as this one we know we have no real representation in the halls of Albany. But does that give a group with power the green light to keep molesting us? Would school bullies that harass the unpopular kid on a daily basis and take his lunch money be condoned/tolerated? Just because they can? Nobody else likes that kid anyway so it's okay. Right?
Contrary to apparent opinion, adults who choose to smoke DO have something to say and object strenuously to the proposal to raise the cigarette tax by any amount.
Over the course of 10 years this consumer segment has been hit with:
That's.... grope, grope, grope, grope, gropegropegrope.
- 3 state tax increases
- 1 city tax increase (affecting the state's largest population)
- 1 federal tax increase (SCHIP)
- 1 hidden tax associated with the Master Settlement Agreement whereby the tobacco companies increased the price of a pack of cigarettes to cover their fines. Rather, it is the consumer who covers it.
- Ever-tightening bans on smoking
- Revocation of their ability to buy cigarettes on-line (state internet ban of 2003)
- Revocation of their ability to have them delivered just like any other legal product offered for sale (PACT Act)
Protecting "The Children"
Lawmakers can hide behind "the children" but at what point do the adults who choose to smoke have their rights equally protected? How far should government be allowed to restrict the rights and privileges of adults in order to control the behavior of children? Suddenly revoking the legal choices of one group traditionally defined as adult in order to achieve this is unacceptable. You don't punish one to influence another.
All they're doing is creating an environment for even greater black market/bootlegging sales. Who knows better than any "kid" who or where to go to get what they want. Compliance with the no sales to minors law by tobacco licensees are reportedly (by the NYS DOH) high in the state. They are the front line guardians in keeping cigarettes out of the hands of minors. If this tax is approved lawmakers will turn even more minors away from legal vendors who will deny them the purchase and toward avenues that have no regard for their age -- just their money, just like the legislators.
When these new/additional enterprises form -- and they will -- how much money will need be spent on enforcement measures that will eat into any expected revenue?
Here's a thought... Minors aren't allowed by law to purchase cigarettes anyway. Does raising the tax change that one fundamental and perfectly preventative act? "High taxes to keep kids from smoking" actually is laughable when they're not supposed to be buying them anyway... even if a pack sold for a penny.
Health Care Costs to Society Goes Up as Smoking Goes Down
Were we to accept -- as the anti-smokers insist -- that "smokers die earlier" due to their lifestyle choice then the claim that smokers are a health care cost drain on society is fictitious and is not saving any revenue for the state. In fact, it's a drain on state revenue. It's been repeatedly demonstrated that smokers pay far more than any costs incurred:
- Fat People [And Smokers] Cheaper to Treat, Study Says - (February 5, 2008) - In a paper published online in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers... Cancer incidence, except for lung cancer, was the same in all three ["healthy living," obese, smoker] groups. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.
- Does Staying Healthy Reduce Your Lifetime Health Care Costs? (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, May 2010): "Our main finding is that although the current health care costs of healthy retirees are lower than those of the unhealthy, the healthy actually face higher total health care costs over their remaining lifetime. At any given age, average costs for people who remain in good health are higher than for those suffering from one or more chronic diseases. So why do the currently healthy incur higher lifetime health care costs than the sick? First, people in good health can expect to live significantly longer. At age 80, people in healthy households have a remaining life expectancy that is 29 percent longer than people in unhealthy households, and, therefore, are at risk of incurring health care costs over more years. Second, many of those currently free of any chronic disease will succumb to one or more such diseases. For example, our simulated individuals who are free of any chronic diseases at age 80 can expect to spend one-third of their remaining life suffering from one or more such diseases. Third, people in healthy households face an even higher lifetime risk of requiring nursing home care than those who are not healthy, reflecting their greater risk of surviving to advanced old age, when the risk of requiring such care is highest."
- The Proposed Tobacco Settlement: Who Pays for the Health Costs of Smoking? (Congressional Research Service, April 30, 1998): "Smoking has apparently brought financial gain to both the federal and state governments, especially when tobacco taxes are taken into account. In general, smokers do not appear to currently impose net financial costs on the rest of society. The [MSA] tobacco settlement will increase the transfer of resources from the smoking to the nonsmoking public."
- The Health Care Costs of Smoking (NEJM, October 9, 1997): "If people stopped smoking, there would be a savings in health care costs, but only in the short term. Eventually, smoking cessation would lead to increased health care costs [7 percent higher among men and 4 percent higher among women]."
- Insurance Costs of Smoking (from Secondhand Smoke: Facts and Fantasy by W. Kip Viscusi, 1995): "On balance, smokers save society 27¢ per pack from an insurance standpoint. This amount excludes the role of the taxes smokers pay, which average 53¢ per pack [in 1995] of cigarettes."
Certainly lawmakers can try to convince themselves of the logic that revenue will increase while the other stated goal of reducing smoking decreases. That's an utterly dishonest rationalization. And the more cigarette taxes increase the harder it is for that math to be true.
Not once, but twice it's been rendered false in the state of New Jersey:
"[T]he state of New Jersey recently witnessed a revenue decline after a cigarette tax increase — in this case, in the year following a fiscal 2007 tax hike from $2.40 per pack to $2.575 per pack. Newly available fiscal 2008 data indicate that the net decline has occurred for the second year in a row."*Then there's NYS itself lamenting (essentially agreeing) the same prospect due to the federal tax placed on cigarettes via SCHIP:
* Greg Edwards, Center for Policy Research of New Jersey, telephone interview with Michael LaFaive, September 26, 2008. Citing official state statistics, Edwards reports that cigarette tax revenues dropped from $765.1 million to $763.4 million from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2008. This prolonged revenue decline challenges the common view that tax revenues may sometimes drop immediately following a cigarette tax increase, but will increase again after smokers become accustomed to the new price.
-- (http://www.mackinac.org/archives/2008/s2008-12.pdf - pg. 12)
"Federal SCHIP Changes: Changes in the Federal SCHIP program will result in greater Federal support for the already-planned State expansion of CHP coverage for children in families with income no greater than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Line and to immigrant children. These savings are partially offset by Federal changes expected to result in lower revenue from tobacco taxes, which had been planned to help support CHP expenses."
-- (http://publications.budget.state.ny.us/budgetFP/2009-10EnactedBudget-FINAL.pdf - pg. 81)
In short? NYS even says "Raise the tax and revenue declines." But don't be fooled into believing that it will or has achieved the other prong of the cigarette tax-raising rationale which is to reduce smoking prevalence. As per the previously cited Mackinac study:
"From 1990 to 2006... *casual smuggling import rates were highest in New York (9.9 percent)..."
*casual smuggling is defined as individual consumers saving money by buying their cigarettes in low-tax states or countries.
When normally law-abiding citizens are turned into victims without redress or due process they will turn to one form or another of civil disobedience -- a protest that has a long and distinguished history in the face of acts that are abusive. Count on it... some more.