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Would it be fair to raise the price of cigarettes 50 cents to fund the governor’s $50 million health care plan?

Asked at Borders, 700 N.H. on November 10, 2004

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Photo of Kate Lorenson

“I’m just tired of them raising the price. I don’t know if it’s fair or not.”

Photo of Angela Martin

“Yes. Why not have them support a cause if they are going to continue to smoke? At least they can contribute to other people’s health care.”

Photo of Pat Davis

“Sure, why not? I don’t smoke, but if it’s going to help out the greater good, then I think people can probably deal with it.”

Photo of Melissa Martin

“Sure, because I don’t smoke. People should quit anyway.”


missmagoo 13 years, 1 month ago

whatever happened to good 'ol diet and exercise???

Richard Heckler 13 years, 1 month ago

People are not stupid. It is a well known fact that smoking makes a huge contribution to the number of cancer cases. Cancer treatment is expensive which increases the cost of healthcare to all who still can afford premiums. The cost of care has taken many into bankruptcy. I seriously doubt that 50 cents per pack covers the impact on ones health from the effects of smoking. There are many other throat and lung ailments over and above cancer attached to smoking which causes users to make visits to medical clinics for treatment thus driving up the cost of health care.

The pain killers required for some smoking related problems are also very expensive. It is too bad something as addictive as tobacco comes with so so many negative side effects.

my_Two_cents 13 years, 1 month ago

Why stop there. we could raise the price of gas, milk, Orange juice, Kids lunchs at school hell the list goes on. but the bottom line is that not matter how high you raise taxes all that ever gets done is raises for goverment employees, You have to hire more goverment people to track the the 50 cents and another bunch of people to figure out how to spend the 50 cents, in the end the 50 cents isn't enough to help health care at all. Wake up people dam! In the 1700's taxes weren't this dam high and we had a tea party.

lunacydetector 13 years, 1 month ago

What is the success rate for a smoker to quit and NEVER smoke again EVER (for the rest of his or her life)?

Answer: 2%

pretty disheartening isn't it?

The Gov & former Gov and the Legislature and previous Legislature should have spent the tobacco settlement money on smoking rehab clinics. Instead, they threw it away.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 1 month ago

I think that the tobacco settlement money (billions and billions and billions of dollars) was agreed to be paid out over a lengthy period of time. So....this proposed tax is supposed to augment that settlement money that Kansas has been receiving (and every other state has been receiving and will continue to be receiving).

Also, a sizeable portion of every state's tobacco settlment money is supposed to go towards educating young people about the dangers of smoking.----Whether or not that actually happens probably varies by amount from state to state, I'm sure!

craigers 13 years, 1 month ago

Yes, we should tax the cigarettes. If you have a group that causes healthcare expenses to go up, they should pay for it. This is a great way to isolate a problem group and have them help pay for the increases. I know my insurance company gives me a benefit because I don't smoke. Smokers are going to have a shorter life-span in the first place so why not try to make them pay for their healthcare bills now.

mrcairo 13 years, 1 month ago

Again, an uninformed Lawrence Public rants and raves about issues not questioned. The 50 cents is to help fund health insurance for those who have lost it due to high premium increases. My premiums are now eating up close to 22% of my take home pay. Just a tad under my house payment. Pretty soon, I may have to give up my home to pay for my health insurance... and I'm a healthy person who has seen a doctor twice in the past 4 years.

The increases in health insurance has nothing to do with liability issues, and everything to do with a failed economic policy that has driven the stock market to the bottom. Insurance companies invest heavily in the stock market, and are losing money hand over fist, and are raising their rates to protect their profits. Your increased premiums are in effect, a tax. In my case, a tax increase of several hundred dollars per month.

I'd like to see the cigarette tax at $1.00 per pack, and $1.00 per Fifth and $1.00 per six-pack, and $10.00 per keg. Go first-class.

Savage 13 years, 1 month ago

Since the states spend the billions flowing in on pork from the tobacco settlements...its just another trick designed to flush money in some other direction or place that is underfunded in our state govt. The truth is...the money will probably be used for the ever increasing homeland security expenses and welfare. I think we should pass laws that declare if a tax is raised 100 percent of the funds must go to that cause. That would rectify true taxation without representation.

Savage 13 years, 1 month ago

Also, I think its ashame that if some group were to start a Boston Tea Party today, they would be charged with federal crimes, have the patriot act tossed at them, locked up and the key thrown away! What is happening to democracy in this our mighty empire?

Savage 13 years, 1 month ago

Smoking isn't brought about by greed, but rather the innocent curiousity of a good smoke.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 1 month ago

Did anyone notice that two of the four people pictured above have that typical, classic, not-too-surprising attitude of........"Hey, I don't smoke, so sure, go ahead and raise cigarette taxes.......Whatever!"

---But see, the problem with that "myopic thinking/attitiude" is that as the 21st century unwinds the bigger health problem facing this country will be the kinds of food and the amount of food people stuff in their face, it won't be just cigarettes! Then what? Pretty soon state governments will be taxing Big Macs, Whoppers (with or without cheese), Hershey bars, booze, red meat, and Dr. Pepper in ever increasing (and outrageous) amounts!! --Oh, and let's not forget a higher bubble gum tax, too! Gum is bad for your teeth you know! The more gum you chew, the more cavities you'll get, and that means more money spent at the dentist! And everybody has a God-given right to affordable dental care!

So where does this thinking/attitiude of..."if it is bad for you...well then, it must be taxed" end??---That is the larger question. I would imagine that someday there will be a state government proposal to tax something that some these pictured respondents above enjoy indulging in, and then, chances are, they'll care about that!

Carmenilla 13 years, 1 month ago

I am a struggling-to-quit smoker. If they raised the price by fifty cents it certainly would be an incentive for me to go all the way and QUIT!!!! But it just ain't that easy. And right now a lot of smokers feel indignant about the ban and potential tax increase. I know that Bob's right about the burden put upon the system by people who suffer from smoking related illnesses but I can't help feel that smokers are the new pariah. There is such a blatent hatred for smokers right now in Lawrence its practically palpable. People have actually come up to me while I'm OUTSIDE and told me to put it out because its ruining their enjoyment of downtown. One person even grabbed a smoke right outta my friend's mouth and stomped it out! My point is (there really is one) that we wouldn't grab a burger out of an obese person's hand would we? Why not tax ALL the things that are unhealthy......Alcohol, smokes, fast food, driving while on cell phone (just kidding)? Really, I just feel that smokers are burdened enough. Shove us outside, tax us all to hell, and treat us like dogs.......Then we'll really need a smoke!

David Ryan 13 years, 1 month ago

I smoke, stupidly, and though I'd not like the rise in price, I won't argue against this tax.

One thing, though: I don't think it's wise to base health care support on a tax upon items we hope, and plan, the use of which will lessen to zero.

What happens when all the smokers have been taxed out of smoking?

It's like supporting abstinence programs with taxes on prostitution.

Savage 13 years, 1 month ago

Is it possibe that if ALL smokers quit tomorrow, we would find ourselves with a 5 dollar per gallon gasoline tax? Hmm.

lunacydetector 13 years, 1 month ago

Sorry Original Bob I cannot provide you a link. I got that stat from a "stop smoking" clinic I went to. Though I thought it to be unbelievable at the time, I think it is probably right on. I know a lot of people who quit and restarted - just like myself. I also know a lady who worked in a rehab clinic for hardcore drug addicts - ones who were addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. They all stopped their drug use but they couldn't stop smoking.

With the advent of the discovery Zyban or Welbutrin that helps cut the craving in the brain, it helped me quit. I also had to do the patch. I didn't stop long, and started up after having a few drinks. One cigarette wouldn't be such a big deal - I thought. Now I am back at it full time.

Now I have the nicotine inhaler/patch combo with Zyban. I haven't tried this yet, it is sitting in my medicine cabinet, but I know smoking will kill me if I don't stop.

So statistically, the 2 % figure, though I have nothing to back it up, I think it is probably right, at least the physician at the stop smoking clinic said so.

Savage 13 years, 1 month ago

Bob, if what you're saying is true, and I have no doubt that it is.Doesn't it just make all the haters out there philsosphically speaking, just a bunch of radical anti-smoking fools?!!!!

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 1 month ago

O_B, lunacydetector.....

Let's not forget all of those chain-smoking alcoholics that attend AA meetings! --Boy! What does that tell you about tobacco/nicotine addiction! It's more powerful than alcohol addiction! (Or so it would seem!)

Fangorn 13 years, 1 month ago

":supporting abstinence programs with taxes on prostitution." That's funny!

The only time I smoke is when I'm on fire (which hasn't happened yet, thankfully). It's a nasty habit. It leaves stains and smells that are unpleasant and can linger for days. That being said, smoking is legal. It's a choice people make and have a right to make. The smoking Nazis who confronted Carmenilla are the real danger to society. (Lulu, if you want a real example of fascistic actions or attitudes, this type of anti-smoking zealot fits the bill.) What will be the next forbidden behavior? And in what setting? If a restaurant owner ("ownership" is the important concept here) isn't free to choose whether or not to allow smoking in his restaurant, what's next? "Sorry, ma'am, some children are allergic to geraniums. We can't allow you to plant flowers around your house." "Sir, the color purple has been deemed offensive (you know:K-State and all that). So you'll have to pay to have your car repainted." If I really love a restaurant but don't like smoke, I can A) learn to cope (a conservative in Lawrence has to develop such skills), B) order my food for take out, or C) cultivate a taste for some other restaurant's food. I don't have a right to demand how someone else uses their property. But there is one more option, I could D) tell the owner I don't like smoke. If enough patrons express this preference, the owner can ban smoking voluntarily.

PigFarmer 13 years, 1 month ago

Almost a year ago, I retired at the ripe old age of 55 years and 3 months from the state of Kansas. As manager of a large IT department I am very familiar with how the state runs day to day business.

The state is really good at funding what they know will be difficult to get approved. Then leave unfunded what they know we want- then say we need to raise taxes. This same practice is used in school districts and cities.

Then the state rarely does what they say. Case in point is the 15 million dollar underground parking lot for more visitor parking. After it was completed they figured 1 1/2 of the two floors of the new parking garage would have to go toward the legislators, their staff, governor and her staff.

Also, the state has many more staff than they need. I would think that they could lose one third of the staff with no loss of services.

I am not a smoker, but I would no to the tax.

badger 13 years, 1 month ago

To those who tend to get irate and start talking about Boston Tea Parties, I say, "You can't have a Boston Tea Party, because one of the primary reasons for the Boston Tea Party was taxation WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. You have representation. Use it."

It never fails to amaze me how often I hear someone complaining about how things are, how the city/county/state/country is run, and how they want things to be different, but that person looks shocked and a little indignant when I ask if he's written his elected representatives letters about his position. Sure, some people communicate frequently with their elected representatives, and those people are to be commended. But most dissatisfied Americans, from anti-war protestors to smoking ban opponents to people who think we should end welfare, don't bother to do more to bring change than vote and maybe sign the occasional petition or send the occasional snarky letter to the editor.

You don't like it? Fix it. You tried to fix it by the legal and established means for enacting governmental change and the system failed? Fix it. You were prevented from using legal means to fix the system or to even initiate debate about fixing it? Then you can step outside the law, but be warned that if you step outside the law, you're now subject to its penalties. Revolutionaries are much more likely to end up in prison than in power, and if you're not willing to risk the former, don't bother agitating for the latter.

I don't mean to sound snarky, but I'm pretty tired of liberals whining about the conservative power brokers and conservatives whining about the liberal control of the media and the people in the middle whining about how the system is completely overrun by the extremists on both sides, when no one ever takes active steps, legally outlined by our governmental process, to do more than make excuses for an imperfect system they're too lazy to change.

Am I satisfied with my current government's actions? Not remotely, not on the local level, not on the state level, not on the federal level. Does every single one of my elected representatives have at least one of my opinions somewhere in a file (even if it's File 13)? Yes.

Here's an experiment: Tomorrow, everyone who reads this forum take ten minutes out of your day and compose a short letter to an elected representative of your choice regarding something you're passionate about. Then send it. Do it once a month. Participate actively in the process for the next few years, instead of resting on those 'I voted' laurels.

Fangorn 13 years, 1 month ago

Thank you, badger. First for some sound advice. I hope all contributors to this forum follow it. But I also want to thank you for a post that was nearly as long as some of mine! It's comforting to know that others can be loquacious, too.

missmagoo 13 years, 1 month ago

I have a wierd question. I've been a smoker in the past and am relatively new to smoking bans and tax increases and what not...but...if smoking is big enough to be banned in large cities and if they're hiking up the taxes for cigs, why don't they just make them illegal? I mean, for as many arguments there are that cigarettes will indoubtably give you or others cancer, then why the hell not get rid of them altogether? I'm not saying I am in support of them but I thought that I would provoke conversation on this board since Lulu hasn't posted yet today.

Hi_Jinks 13 years, 1 month ago

missmagoo..........for the same reason they don't outlaw booze. The government tried to outlaw booze for good once, and it ultimately failed. The government continues to outlaw pot and various other drugs (WAR ON DRUGS!! WAR ON DRUGS!!)--and the goverment is failing at that!---Miserably, I might add! I mean please.....there's nowhere in all of America where some kid can't get his hands on a bag of weed!

So, I believe that the government knows that it is easier (and more practical) to just tax cigarettes into extinction rather than just ban them altogether. Although, it is also my belief that cigarettes will be around for a number of years to come!---Cigarettes will still be around long after you and I have departed this life!

pornmaker 13 years, 1 month ago

I have a better idea, and it's one that's been alluded to in prior comments. Why not take that 50 cent tax on smokes and put it towards getting our kids better food, or at least improving education on healthy eating habits, because the fact is this, overweight people in this country are costing us more in health premiums than smokers are. Need proof? 30% of Americans classify themselves as smokers. Okay, so they'll suffer from emphysema and various forms of heart and lung disease. 70% of Americans are classifed as overweight, 45% of that 70% are grossly obese. These people will suffer from all kinds of ailments and diseases, and are in constant need of treatments.

Take a look around next time you're on the road. What do you see more of, smokers, or fat people? I only need to look around my office to tell you my answer.

Carmenilla 13 years, 1 month ago

You're gonna tell me that any doofus from B.F.E. doesn't know that fruits and veggies are healthier than fast food? C'mon.....The education is already there. And mostly its common sense. People will continue to eat crappy food as long as it is cheaper and easier than shopping and cooking for themselves. We are a nation in love with the "quick fix". As long as processed food is available and affordable (and designed to make us "feel good") we will continue to shove it down our throats. I am one of those wierdos that cooks almost every night for my family. And I work too! It can still happen in this day and age. We just have to stop being so lazy and turn off the bood tube (uh oh, I'm gonna get deleted for that four-letter word!).

Carmenilla 13 years, 1 month ago

I think it would take an entire re-evaluation of our society to break down these walls of nutritional ignorance. As long as the media glamourizes booze and sex and fast food, we will continue to have a willing nation of young people who think that what we put in our bodies has no effect later in life. I just see so much irresponsibility in advertising. As much as I think "Supersize Me" was intentionally sensationalistic, the filmmaker did make some really good points about the culture we have brought our children up in. If we tell them fruit and veggies are good but all they see are ads for junk than of course, they're gonna buy into the glossy picure. Turn off those TVs!!!

Carmenilla 13 years, 1 month ago

Some one actually said to me the other day, that they don't excercise because it was too much work! I almost peed my pants trying not to laugh out loud because they were serious!!! I only get a chance to excercise 3-4 days a week but it is worth every sore muscle and sweaty ponytail. I'm not a skinny person either. It just feels good to get your blood pumping (without the use of politics ;)

Libcon 13 years, 1 month ago

I think taxes are a waste of time, no one even knows where the money goes. There should be no cig tax, because ciggarettes are good, they calm your nerves. Without them people would be going crazy.

Centrist 13 years, 1 month ago

By the way, the Atkins and South Beach diets are about PROTEIN, mostly. That does NOT automatically equal "just meat". There are veggies in there too! I actually took on the Atkins diet and ate tons of veggies, chicken, cheese, SOME meat etc and fellt better than I've ever felt. Let's keep to the FACTS ok? We're NOT the Bush Campaign ... :)

lunacydetector 13 years, 1 month ago

Here are some absurd suggestions:

Why not have everyone pay an extra dime anytime they flush the toilet. This could be used on air cleaners to alleviate the methane gas released into the air (causing global warming), plus they can use the extra funds to spend on education.

They can raise the taxes a quarter a gallon of gasoline to pay for healthcare since the fumes given off from gasoline are cancer causing.

How about raising taxes a nickel on a bottle of pop to pay for the healthcare of people who have diabetes.

What about raising taxes 25 cents per pound of red meat, to pay for the healthcare of future heart attack / stroke victims / e-coli victims.

They could raise the taxes a dime for every bar or bottle of non-bacterial soaps people use. Non-bacterial soaps are supposedly diminishing our resistance to infections. The extra taxes could pay for the longer hospital stays.


Fangorn 13 years, 1 month ago

Carmenilla, skinniness isn't really an accurate indicator of good health. People who exercise have stronger hearts, lower blood pressure and heartrates, better muscle tone, and stronger immune systems. Weigh loss is only one benefit of exercise. Besides, Cosmo, Glamour, and GQ, etc. have sold us this "skinny = healthy" bunk for too long.

Centrist 13 years, 1 month ago

Bob ... By the way, a lot of the studies against Atkins are "funded" by doctor's groups, drug companies and also companies who make the foods that Atkins turns you away from, such as the potato and bread industries, for example. Just remember there are sides to everything. And as for the fad? Maybe it's not the overnight sensation it was, but people are at least trying to "count carbs". I used to be the biggest cynic on planet Earth, but I tried this thing and it works, if you do it right. Now I have balance in my diet, with fat intake as well as "carbs". I believe in balance. That's why I'm a Centrist. Cheers, mate and long live blogging democracy!!

Centrist 13 years, 1 month ago

You too Bob!

BTW .. I find it unbelievable that America pays MORE for drugs than Canada, a country with approx. 30-40% HIGHER cost of living (see exchange rates and relative prices). If anything, it should be way LOWER ... so imagine now, how large those profit margins are ...

Fangorn 13 years, 1 month ago

Centrist, in your last post you confuse "price" with "cost". Government affects the cost of something only indirectly. But they often exercise control of the price, almost always resulting in a shortage of what is being price-controled.

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