50.8% of California voters have decided against Prop 29, which would have raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes in the state by a $1. The vote was close, but in anti-smoker California this signifies a sea change in public opinion: People are beginning to realize that regressive taxation against a minority is wrong. Skeptics rightfully charge that this money would not have gone towards cancer research for smokers by rightfully pointing to the fiscal track record that tobacco control has already left for us to examine. The truth is that the money extorted from smokers has never gone towards cancer research (for smokers), nor has it ever gone towards the research of reduced risk tobacco products. Lung cancer continues to be amongst the deadliest of cancers, not because its trajectory is so much more deleterious in its nature as compared to that of other forms of cancer, but for lack of funds in eradicating the disease due largely to prejudice. Of all cancers, lung cancer receives the least amount of federal funding in the United States, even though smokers are singled out with the highest rates of taxation. Cigarettes are the highest taxed commodity in the United States. Furthermore, smokers pay more into the system than the cost of smoking related diseases, but are denied funding for the very research that we continue to pay for many times over.
This trickery and embezzlement in the name of public health has been propelled upon the unwilling with a swift and unwavering force ever since 1998 when the Master Settlement was called into action. The Master Settlement Agreement was supposed to have been enacted for the purpose of covering the Medicaid costs of treating smokers. Instead what we have witnessed has been the outright theft perpetrated against a group that has been unable to defend itself. For example, many government officials and bureaucrats have been borrowing against future tobacco bonds (to go into the general fund and “other” needs, such as parks and the purchase of undeveloped land) in cash strapped states such as, surprise, California. California Watch, a government watchdog group, has uncovered some startling facts about California’s love of tobacco money:
Rather than waiting for annual payments, the state and some local governments decided to borrow money against their anticipated future revenue. All told, they’ve issued $16 billion in bonds since 2001.
Could it be that the state of California, via Prop 29, was looking for yet another way to tax smokers into oblivion in order to cover the debt that has been incurred by reckless state bureaucrats who borrowed against future smoker money? Nah….. That would be too cynical, right?
In December, California had to dip into its reserves to cover bond payments.
They’re in debt to future tobacco bonds! How could they borrow our money to spend on other things without our permission? That is supposed to be our money! But, but…MSA money was for the treatment of sick smokers on Medicaid…Yeah, right…and pigs fly and all politicians, special interest groups and lawyers are honest; only tobacco companies lie; and as for the people most affected, well, we don’t exist.
As the state’s finances worsened, officials went back to investors.
Yes, you have read that right: There are people who invest in MSA money. Isn’t that just lovely? For the love of righteousness and justice, I can’t fathom how this could be a legal endeavor. The very people who have kicked us smokers to the curb (under the false premise that we’re a financial burden to society) are investing in the very commodity that they profess to hate. It makes one think that there is something putrid abound, as we smokers are denied the very benefits that we have already paid for. I want to know why we have been denied the lifesaving research that has been paid for several times over. I don’t expect that we’ll get an honest answer to that question any time soon.
I have a striking suspicion that there is a dark and pernicious force in action with the intent of keeping all tobacco products as dangerous as possible in order to justify the continued extortion. The damage done to smokers goes far beyond that of punitive taxation, for any government backed industry that borrows against “sin” taxes is an industry that stands to lose revenue when new and novel reduced risk products are introduced into the marketplace.
Saving the lives of smokers does not appear to be profitable for some. The prohibitionist “quit or die” approach put forth by modern day tobacco control movement is merely a thinly disguised veil for its true intent, which is to abolish and bury any alternative measures (like tobacco harm reduction) that may actually work to save the lives of millions while respecting the sovereignty of individuals and nation states everywhere. For those among us who don’t believe that this accusation carries any merit, I would like to provide unbelievers a mere glimpse into the window of modern science and tobacco harm reduction, which happens to be rife with empirical information that is irrefutable:
It is already possible to eliminate the carcinogenic nature of combustible tobacco cigarettes by 90%. There have been many studies and cigarette models developed which prove this to be the case; many more models are being studied as I am typing this commentary. Of course, none of us have had the pleasure of hearing about these revolutionary discoveries from our public health officials or via the nightly news. This proves that if Prop 29, the MSA, as well as that of all tobacco taxation, were really about the health of smokers, then existing tobacco tax codes would instead ensure that a significant proportion of tobacco taxes go towards reducing the harm(s) caused by active smoking via the marketing and production of future harm reduction products and that of those reduced risk tobacco products that already exist:
Scientists have tried to make safer cigarettes in the past. Haemoglobin (which transports oxygen in red blood cells) and activated carbon have been shown to reduce free-radicals in cigarette smoke by up to 90%, but because of the cost, the combination has not been successfully introduced to the market.
..”Because of the cost”… What about all of that tobacco money that smokers have been coughing up at the local, state, and federal level for all of these years? Clearly, there is enough money to save the lives of many smokers. Nicotine replacement therapy (ie., patches and gum) has a 90+% failure rate. Here we have (thanks to the brave scientists who continue to study harm reduction) access to the knowledge that could actually work by lowering the risk of smoking related disease(s) by 90%, yet it is ignored by the very people who purport to care about public health. Not having the access to and the knowledge of these advancements is an outrage and a violation of human rights. Smokers are dying while politicians and bureaucrats stuff their pockets whilst golfing on the green-grass-manicured lawns that dead and dying smokers have paid for.
Haemoglobin and activated carbon cigarettes should already be on the market (and we should know about it, as well as that of other reduced risk cigarettes such as those who utilize anti-oxidants). Here is another such development listed below:
Using natural antioxidant extracts in cigarette filters, the researchers were able to demonstrate that lycopene and grape seed extract drastically reduced the amount of cancer-causing free radicals passing through the filter.
I’m only approaching the tip of the iceberg here, for there have been many more such studies which have shown how various anti-oxidants can be used to reduce the harms caused by active smoking. I have many of them listed on my blog.
There is no reason why smoking has to continue to be nearly as dangerous as it has been up until the present. This is the 21st century after all. It is clear that the health of smokers has been sacrificed on the altar of heavy taxation and greedy hands. What we need are massive reforms to current tobacco taxation laws, not more taxation to feed a broken system. Smokers deserve to have a say in these much needed reforms. No one wants to be “unhealthy” after all, and no one deserves to die for lack of funding and prejudice. Some of us are aware of the scientific advancements that have been made and we rightfully would like to be the benefactors of such inventions.
Prop 29 failed for a reason: it was an egregious attempt to beat up on an already bruised and battered minority. People from all walks of life are beginning to question the tactics of the anointed anti-tobacco establishment as a result. It is my hope that all similar attempts in the future will fail, and not only in California.