Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hey, New Jersey: Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette

New Jersey Democrat Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle is sponsoring a bill that would ban smoking at all parks and beaches. The controversial measure won the approval of the State Assembly on Thursday and will now head to the State Senate where a vote has not yet been scheduled.

I’m sorry to disappoint those who feel that government should just make the sale of tobacco illegal, but it just isn’t going to happen.

Regardless of the arguments both pro and con, a federal ban on cigarettes would be a practical impossibility considering that tobacco is still a big business (and source of tax revenue).

The tobacco lobby is one of the most powerful political forces in America. According to The Tobacco Atlas, estimates of revenues from the global tobacco industry likely approach a half trillion U.S. dollars annually. In 2010 alone, the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies was U.S. $35.1 billion, equal to the combined profits of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and McDonald’s in the same year.

The world tobacco industry generated sales of almost $721 billion in 2010. Cigarettes represent the leading market segment with revenue exceeding $681 billion, which accounts for almost 95% of the overall market. The yearly rate of market growth is expected to accelerate to be 4.5% until 2015, bringing the market to almost $890 billion.

An estimated 42.1 million people, or 18.1% of all adults (aged 18 years or older), in the United States smoke cigarettes; any universal smoking ban would have such an overwhelmingly massive effect on U.S. politics that the party or politician responsible for the ban would soon lose all political power.

Moreover, as a practical matter, the government simply does not have adequate law enforcement personnel to change the behavior of 45 million people by force.

Since 1998, governments at all levels have collected more than $484.6 BILLION in cigarette taxes (including sales tax) and payments from smokers.

The government per-pack profit from cigarettes in 2012 was $3.78 (or 66 percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes), almost ten-times the profit of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
If Big Tobacco were a country, it would have a gross domestic product (GDP) of countries like Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Venezuela.

It’s not clear how much Huttle’s bill will actually accomplish. It’s designed to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke at beaches and parks, cut down on litter and improve fire safety in those public areas. However, smoking would still be allowed in parking lots near beaches and parks.

Anti-smoking advocates tout that the measure would encourage smokers to quit and set a better example for children and drastically reduce litter. Violators could face a $250 fine for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations.
Good luck! It may be illegal to smoke in public places, but there is nothing illegal about smoking itself.

There are two sides to every coin and two sides to every story; in this instance, we’re seeing another assault on the liberty of the people and, at the same time, a way for Trenton to snag more money out the people’s pockets.

The battle between smokers and non-smokers goes on, a battle that’s as much cultural as anything else, and government watches on as it reaps the rewards of the battle which it instigated.

Ironic, isn’t it? They’re the ones always accusing Big Tobacco of Machiavellian tactics. Big Tobacco can’t hold a candle in this regard to Big Government.

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