Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Skeptical of the smoking stats!

5,500 and 6,400. The two new statistics that I’m not quite sure I believe.

Or, even if they are true, if they really mean all that much.

THOSE ARE THE numbers that aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel were using on Tuesday to try to justify the proposal to raise the tax on a package of cigarettes by 75 cents.

City Health Department officials admit that this new tax would result in cigarettes costing more in Chicago than anywhere else in the United States. Which they say is a good thing.

Because it would persuade some 5,500 adults to quit smoking (because they can’t afford it anymore) and some 6,400 teenagers to never start smoking in the first place.

It’s my own gut instinct that says people who are determined to smoke are going to, regardless of the official price of a pack of cigarettes. Although even if those number of people do wind up not smoking because it becomes too expensive, is it really worth that much.

BECAUSE WE’RE TALKING about some not-quite 12,000 people out of a population of 2.7 million in the city, or some more than 8 million in the Chicago metro area.

The 11,900 that city officials are saying will not smoke? That’s a pretty insignificant number.

Personally, I’d respect city government more if they’d just come out and admit they want to gouge the people who are so addicted to tobacco that they can’t get by without their two-pack-a-day fix!

At least that would be honest.

NO MATTER HOW much they want to talk about saving $235 million in long-term health costs from problems caused by smoking, they really want the added tax revenue.

There are many areas to which the money – about $10 million per year, city officials say – could be put to use.

Including the child health care programs that city officials say they want to support. A noble goal.

But I wonder at what point do we start seeing people taking extreme measures to avoid buying cigarettes in Chicago? Will it turn out to be like gasoline – where anybody who can possibly avoid using a gas pump in the city limits does so?

WILL WE GET those places selling “cheap smokes” just across the city limits/state line in Hammond, Ind., and surrounding Hoosier communities seeing a sudden surge in business.

Or what of the places within the city – usually in the seedier neighborhoods that most need help but don’t’ get it – where locals know which stores will sell them “loosies.”

As in cigarettes sold individually.

It’s most definitely an illegal act. But there are those people who think they’re Al Capone reincarnated and that they’re “providing a service” to people who merely want to indulge their taste for tobacco.

AND WHEN IT comes to wanting something easily accessible and cheap, some people are more than willing to overlook the legalities of any issue.

As for me, I don’t smoke. It is just one habit I never picked up on. I wish it were practical to think of tax increases like this as a way to seriously decline the number of people who feel compelled to smoke cigarettes. I’m just realistic enough to know that life isn’t quite so easy.

If only the addition of another tax were the way to do it.

Instead, we’re going to get these taxes going higher and higher and some people will pay it. But many others will manage to find their alternatives.

WHICH WILL RESULT in no one getting paid a tax. Because avoiding the tax will be the whole point of the purchase.

The healthcare issues and other problems related to smoking will remain. But the increased tax revenues just won’t be there to back up a solution.

Isn’t that a pleasant thought for the day!


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