Random Rants, by Thomas Andrew Olson

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Running for a Smoke

Well, we probably knew it would come to this sooner or later.

New York's chief resident anti-smoking busybody, hizzoner Mike Bloomberg, jacked the taxes on cigs in town a couple of years back, raising the price-per-pack of my wife's favorite Winstons to $7.50. So what's a cig-sucking, self respecting, tax and busybody hating New Yorker to do? Buy elsewhere, of course - either in another state, on the reservations, or over the internet. For those without cars, the internet seemed like a great option - until a couple of weeks ago, when it was announced that the City was cracking down on internet smokes peddlers and demanding they collect the tax. Now everyone who did biz with eSmokes in particular are going to get a back tax bill in the mail. In addition, Bloomie wants to raise the local tax yet another 50 cents.

It won't be long before some deal is reached on the reservations, as well, as the pressure is increasing from Albany - they're not getting their $1.50 a pack either.

The busybodies always claim that raising the cig-tax this way is somehow doing smokers a favor by distorting the marketplace enough to give smokers an economic incentive to quit. Of course, if everyone DID quit, they'd have to tax something else to make up for the sudden budget shortfalls - look to junk food to be next.

So, if the internet is out, and the reservations begin to cave in, what's left?

Time for a road trip...

I did some quick math today. The mean distance from New York City to North Carolina is about 500 miles, or 1000 miles round trip. If your car gets 25 mpg and the average per-gallon price down and back is $2.30, that's $92 total. Stay in a Motel 6 down there - $60 for one night. Let's say you have a pack-and-a-half a day habit - that's one carton a week. My wife's favorite Winstons are only $22 a carton, with tax, as opposed to about $80 a carton in NYC, with hizzoner's new tax hike. 26 cartons would then cost $572.

A weekend trip, for a half-year's supply costs $724 total. Twice a year, that's $1448. By contrast, 52 cartons times $80 in NYC is $4160. So twice-annual trips to North Carolina to support your habit saves you $2712, or nearly two month's rent on that uptown studio.

Budgets at any level of government should not be balanced on the backs of people with habits other people look down on as being "bad" or "unhealthy". We can't tax our way to a toxin-and-fat-free utopia any more than we can tax our way to general prosperity.

Wouldn't it be funny if the Second American Revolution was begun by put-upon smokers who finally banded together and said: "Enough is enough!" ?


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