On Saturday, my friend brought her two daughters to join my family for lunch. After the meal, I stepped outside to smoke my customary cigarette, during which six-year-old Chloe walked outside and asked, “Why do you smoke?” After pondering the question for a few seconds, I answered, “I smoke because I care about you and the children of America.”
Sound cynical or appalling? You may think I am just a fanatical smoker upset at paying $5 a pack.
However, let’s turn the clock back to February 4th, 2009 when President Obama kept one of his campaign promises by signing into law proposal H.R. 2, otherwise known as the State Children Health Insurance Plan.
During the bill’s introduction, President Obama spoke of his promise of medical coverage for every single American, starting with the children. He also stated that he refused to have our children fail because “we fail to meet their basic needs” and that this obligation was non-negotiable.
Both statements, obviously, received a resounding applause by the audience in the East Room because Americans do (or should) care deeply about the future of our children.
President Obama also outlined some of the numbers and costs involved in the health plan. Currently, there are approximately 7 million children enrolled in the insurance plan at a cost of $25 billion. The new plan will provide medical coverage for an additional 4 million uninsured children at $32.8 billion over the next 4 years. The revenue will be solely generated by an increase on tax for all tobacco products by $0.62 from the current $0.39 to $1.01.
Sounds good on paper, right? Sure, if you are not one of the 42 million people paying the bill.
Which brings me to my first issue: hypocrisy in America.
During his campaign, Mr. Obama promised that he “would not raise taxes on anybody.” However, on Tuesday, he stated that he “looked forward” to signing the bill.
Does he mean that those who smoke are not “anybody”? I guess since I like most smokers already deal with the stigma of huddling in dark alleys outside bars or in “penalty boxes” at stadiums and arenas in order to take a puff, only to be scoffed by non-smokers with an obnoxious cough or with a wave of a hand in front of their nose, I have become accustomed to being a “nobody”.
I also crunched the numbers required to fund the health plan. If we assume each smoker purchases a pack of cigarettes daily for an entire year, the additional tax generated yearly would be approximately $9.5 billion. This would mean that the United States would require more people to smoke (or continue smoking) in order to fund this plan.
However, doesn’t the stimulus (or spending, depending on your view) plan call for millions to be spent on smoking cessation? Does this mean that smokers are paying higher taxes on tobacco to fund a health program while trying to quit at the same time?
Smokers also have to deal with another issue: where to smoke. With progressive groups such as SmokeFreeCalifornia and TheTruth.com placing ads to convince people to stop smoking and many city councils banning smoking in public areas, smokers will face additional difficulties finding an area to “burn one” for America. Which leads me to the final issue: freedom.
At a time when most hard-working Americans are stressed about our unstable economy and may need a few puffs to relax, President Obama incorporated a “sin tax” on one of the most maligned and targeted minorities in our country.
Though our voices are consistently muffled by parent groups and our rights are continually taken away by health-conscience agendas, it seems disingenuous that smokers have to live by this added double-standard of paying higher taxes and not being able to smoke.
Nevertheless, what’s done is done, and I, like most other smokers, have my patriotic duty to keep our county and children safe.
Therefore, the next time you take your child to the doctor and you see a person lighting a cigarette, please take the time to stop and say, “Thank you for smoking.”