To the editor:
I feel I'm entitled to respond to the letter to the editor from Valerie Dallenbach (Marshall Independent, Feb. 7, 2013).
In her letter she referred to my earlier letter (Jan. 29, 2013) about people trying cigarettes and quitting of their own volition. She cited a statistic from a report from the Surgeon General saying that 90 percent of lifelong smokers started before the age of 18. That may be true, but that does not prove that everyone who tries a cigarette pack or two will become a smoker. Did that report say how many tried smoking and then chose to quit?
The amount of taxes levied on cigarettes already exceeds the cost and distribution of the tobacco. I'd say the smokers are already paying more than their fair share of taxes.
The bigger issue is what gives government at any level the right to impose a tax on something because some disapprove of its use? The state of Minnesota and other states have already decided that they have the right to restrict the use of a legal product by legal users in privately owned businesses. Just consider what other products could be taxed because the usage of them poses a health hazard.
The country has a larger problem with obesity than it does with tobacco usage. Maybe the state should impose a "fat tax" on restaurants that sell less than healthy foods like the fast-food industry. Raise the the cost at McDonald's or burger King on their menus of high fat, low nutrition food. The cost of a burger or fries could be taxed because their consumption leads to obesity. Add the same $1.60 as an "obesity tax" and some will start eating healthier food.
With the mass-shootings that continue to pose a health risk to innocent people, a $1.60 ammunition tax could be imposed on every box of bullets sold.
That might lower the risk of being shot and killed by one of the unbalanced or angry shooters. A recent column by Mark Shields detailed the number of people killed by guns since 1968 is double the number of American casualties from every war from the Revolutionary War through the war in Afghanistan.
The list of activities that people engage in that may not be in their best interests that could be taxed to reduce the use of them is nearly endless. We now have laws requiring seatbelt usage, child carriers and other similar devices to protect us from serious injury due to someone else's bad driving. If these things are good for us, shouldn't we as adults be allowed to decide that for ourselves?
The emissions from every automobile that passes by my home far exceeds the amount of toxic emissions from cigarettes. Every car releases about 8 to 10 tons of CO2 annually.
That does not include other toxins and pollutants that come from the tailpipe of every car, truck and bus. Maybe we should add a "heath and safety tax" of the proposed $1.60 to gasoline sales and therefore reduce pollutants from automobiles.
The unforeseen consequence of raising cigarette taxes will be an increase in crime. Not just "organized" crime selling untaxed cigarettes, but small, petty crimes to get the money necessary to buy smokes. Then the cry before the Legislature will be to increase police presence to protect private property, build more jails to hold the offenders, hire more judges, add courtrooms to try the cases and more probation officers to supervise those convicted of theft to buy cigarettes.
Raising taxes and therefore prices on cigarettes may have the stated intent, fewer lifelong smokers, less youth smoking and more smokers wanting to quit.
It will also result in a loss of revenue for Minnesota as higher prices lead to cigarette sales from states which allow their citizens to make lifestyle choices without higher taxes and/or foreign countries just wanting more revenue.
It's quite apparent there is little in the way to stop this latest attack on those who smoke. Even the normally anti-tax-increase-GOP is being silent about this additional tax burden on a selected group of Minnesotans.
Imposing taxes on anything that may be harmful somehow just doesn't seem very American to me. There may be good intentions with raising taxes on certain products, but in the end, the road to government control of the people is paved with good intentions.
Dennis J. Larson