Stop Persecuting Smokers
October 20, 2004
Spectrum, by Ed Barrett
I am compelled to write this letter to the editor because of what I see is a blatant, biased, prejudiced and discriminating tax placed on hard-working, responsible, producing Alaskans, addicted to tobacco, by our state government and the city of Anchorage.
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More than a year ago the state placed a $1 tax on tobacco with the guise of educating our youth about the dangers of smoking. I have asked our Legislature for an accounting of each dollar received and each dollar spent. I have not yet received an answer.
The new state tax of another $1 on each pack of cigarettes was instated and is to take effect soon.
Our state government blatantly stated that an estimated $35 million was expected from this tax and is to be placed in the general fund. This estimate must have been made because of the revenues of the first $1 per pack of cigarette tax. I haven’t seen $35 million worth of preventive juvenile smoking ads. Has anyone else?
In fact, I seem to recall that smoking is way up with juveniles, especially with the use of marijuana. OK, so now we have a $2 per pack tax on cigarettes from the state. Now the city of Anchorage sees an easy buck for its treasury and adds another $1 tax per pack of cigarettes to ease the property tax burden of the wealthy property owners in Anchorage — that is a total of $3 tax per pack of cigarettes plus the cost of cigarettes.
The city of Anchorage anticipates $9 million income from its tax. The Anchorage City Council knows that addiction pays. I’ve listened to one councilman speak out from both sides of his face at the same time stating that this tax will help smokers quit and in the same breath states how the new addiction tax will benefit property owners.
Here is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of “hypocrite” — a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue . . . a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he does not hold.
Smoking is an addiction, which has been proven in our U.S. Supreme Court and by the settlements from tobacco companies paying out millions and billions of dollars.
Our state government and the city of Anchorage know this and therefore have chosen to prey on this addiction. Smoking is an addiction 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other addictions get housing, medical treatment, counseling, food treatment programs — even condoms and syringes.
Where are the freebies for smokers, such as special filters, warm and dry smoking areas and free nicotine patches? Smokers have been made out to be 10th-rate citizens with a nasty habit. It is an addiction used by doctors, pilots, military, law enforcement, firefighters, oil field workers, fishermen, secretaries, truck drivers, even the man in the hole with the shovel.
These Alaskans are hard workers contributing to our economy and building Alaska. They are not 10th-rate citizens and should not be hit with an extremely unfair tax. This is not a health issue tax but a horrific, unfair, prejudiced tax on addiction.
Just what have you state legislators and the Anchorage City Council done to hard-working, responsible, producing, addicted Alaskan voters? Let’s do some math using just that $3-per-pack-of-cigarettes tax.
Say a citizen smokes one pack of cigarettes per day (usually more). Three times 365 days of year equals $1,095 per year and if the family has two smokers, a $2,190-per-year tax. And only smokers pay?
This tax reduces family income, making it much harder on the old budget. This tax on addiction is ludicrous. These Alaskan smokers voted you into office expecting representation, not persecution.
The income to the state in the form of oil, now going over $50 per barrel, has fattened the budget and there is no need to go after more money from this special user group — smokers.
The state has slapped smokers in the face twice ($2 tax) and now the city of Anchorage has kicked smokers in the butt with another $1 tax. What were you thinking? Obviously you weren’t.
You have attacked thousands of voters. You may want to consider taking some of the family pictures from your desk and the potted plants from the bookshelves home, as I don’t think you will have your job in government long.
Shame on you. I don’t see a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Tax power of the government should be for essential services asked for by the people and shared by all the people for the benefit of all people.
You may want to consider a sales tax that all the people pay, not just a special user group because of their consumption of a legal product, a product that is a major contributor to America’s growth and strength today.
I urge the state Legislature and the Anchorage City Council to repeal their respective taxes immediately.
Good luck, smokers, and thank you for taking on such a major part of government spending. See you at the polls in the next election year.
Ed Barrett is a Palmer resident.