Anti-tax campaigns usually rely on the stuff of conservative economists, arguing that higher taxes stifle business investment, expansion and vigor. Pro-tax, goes the mantra, is anti-business.
But the anti-expansion argument doesn’t work quite so well on behalf of the tobacco industry, given that the more the customers the cigarette business attracts, the more it kills.
If a higher cigarette tax, like the $1-a-pack foundering amid the no-new-taxes fanatics who control the Florida legislatures, fails to deliver the promised $900 million in state revenue, that could be seen as a good thing. If higher prices discourage smokers, particularly young smokers, they also save lives.
The prospect of a higher tax has brought out owners of convenience stores and smoke shops who complain that another $1 a pack will hurt their business and cost jobs at a time of great economic travails. But health advocates can roll out coughing, wheezing smokers dying of tobacco-related lung disease. Death trumps economic hardship.
So the tobacco companies have countered with an even scarier death threat. They’ve rolled out a 2007 report prepared by the Republican staff members of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee that links high cigarette taxes to smugglers. The smugglers, the report intimates, are terrorists. Or at least they’re of mid-eastern origins, which surely must be the same thing.
The industry also found reports that warn higher priced cigarettes in Florida will encourage criminal gangs to succumb to the temptation and smuggle cigarettes from cheaper states. Or from tax exempt Indian smoke shops.
Perhaps the Crisp, the Bloods, the Latin Kings or M-13, riled and anxious protect their newfound cigarette smuggling enterprises, could provide the perfect antidote to Islamic terrorists here in the homeland.
None of those aforementioned organizations, it might be noted, feel bound to observe the Geneva conventions.