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Thoughts on the smoking banPosted Tuesday, October 2, 2007, at 4:36 PM
Some of you won't like this.
I've been reading several press releases and news stories about Tennessee's new "Non-Smokers Protection Act," which consigns those who puff to outside or places that only serve those over 21.
The arguments behind this new law sort of reminds one of what fast food giant McDonald's said when they stopped serving items in "supersize," saying they were "helping customers make healthier choices."
Can someone please explain to me how taking away a choice is helping someone to make a better one?
Now, I don't smoke, but I know many who do and they are increasingly being treated like second class citizen because of their choice. They are told they are "smelly, nasty and disgusting" and are quickly becoming public enemy #1.
What this writer is concerned about is the infringement the new law puts on business owners, telling them what they can allow on their own property. Apparently, public health outweighs property rights. Another argument is that health care costs are out of this world, and it's all the fault of *insert name of unhealthy, stigmatized group here*
What is ironic is that while Tennessee seems quite concerned about getting folks to stop inhaling the cancer sticks, they also want to make real sure that they are still getting their cut of the proceeds.
A press release from the state last week stated that the Tennessee Department of Revenue's Special Investigations Section will be "conducting surveillance of out-of-state tobacco retailers located near the state line for Tennessee residents purchasing cigarettes."
You see, another law that also passed this summer hiked the cigarette tax from 20 cents to 62 cents per pack. So to save a few bucks, folks are heading across state lines, but Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr says this is a no-no. "Tennesseans should know that the law requires cigarettes purchased outside of the state to bear a Tennessee tobacco stamp, otherwise the cigarettes may be considered contraband."
So if you have more than 20 packs (or two cartons) of cigarettes not bearing the Tennessee tax stamp, it's a misdemeanor. "Such products and any vehicle(s) used to transport them are subject to seizure. Possession of more than 25 cartons of untaxed cigarettes is a Class E felony."
"If Revenue agents believe that an individual is transporting more than two cartons of cigarettes into Tennessee, the vehicle carrying the cigarettes will be stopped and searched," Commissioner Farr said. "If more than two cartons are found, the cigarettes will be seized and agents have the discretion to make arrests and seize the vehicle."
The money from the tax hike goes to education (approximately $195 million annually), agricultural enhancements ($21 million annually) and trauma centers statewide ($12 million annually), the press release stated.
I penned a column a year ago about how useless bureaucrats are constantly coming up with new ways to control every aspect of people's lifes:
... many of us know that the smoking bans enacted across the country really never have anything to do with smoking itself. It is always about the government mentality of "power and control." Live a healthy life or the man will punish you."
The thing is, after they've eliminated smoking, you just know the powers that be are going to go after something else to tax.
So to those of you that are overweight, watch out, because I'm betting that you folks are next. After all, my health insurance is stratospheric because of you guys can't put down the fork ...
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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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