Thoughts on the smoking bans and taxes

I enjoy cigars.

And, since I am a blogger, I blog about it.

This is not a post for or against tobacco. This is a politics post.

Minnesota has one of the highest taxes on tobacco in the country. It is, for cigars, 70% of the wholesale cost. A box of cigars that costs $100 would set a shopkeeper in MN back $170.

This cost is passed right onto the consumer.

In addition to this tax, we have the strictest (non-total) smoking ban. Tobacco lounges exist in a loophole in the law. If a store’s sales are made up of 90% tobacco products, patrons are able to “sample” the wares.

It is this bloggers opinion that the combination of the two is a bit overkill. I think that the tax is a good idea-I feel that it does work as a deterrant to children smoking.

However, I am not a fan of the ban. It has nothing to do with my want to smoke inside, it has everything to do with my opinion on government. If a restaurant owner wants to allow smoking, I think they should be able to. If enough people do not want to work there, or eat there, they will rethink the ban or close up shop. There is nothing forcing anyone to go inside any establishment.

I would even be in favor of increasing the tax a small amount in order to do this.

Rather than have the government decide how shopowners run their shops, let the citizens do it.

11 Comments so far

  1. greg on March 20th, 2009 @ 10:49 am

    Amen, brother. Lots of nanny-state government folks in this state, though. And legislators who feel they need to legislate something.

  2. Robert Moffitt (justpbob) on March 20th, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    I work for the American Lung Association of Minnesota. And, since I am a blogger, I blog about it. I also (respectfully) disagree.

    This is not a politics comment. This is a public health comment.

    Higher taxes on tobacco are a good thing, because it does, as the author points out, encourage younger and "social" smokers to quit. And quitting is a good thing.

    We do in fact have the strictest laws on smoking in indoor workplaces in the nation. That, too, is a good thing. Almost everyone has the same rights to work or visit in a smokefree workplace, the law is well-written, easy to understand, and is well-accepted and enforced statewide.

    I AM a fan of the law, which has everything to do with health, and nothing really to do with government. Yesterday, South Dakota joined Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois as states with strong, statewide laws regulating secondhand smoke and smoking in indoor workplaces.

    Rather than have some workers protected from secondhand smoke and others not, let’s have equal protection for all. Yes, I know the casinos are exempt, but this type of state law can’t be applied to native-owned places. Still, it’s a good law, and I think most people agree.

  3. barry on March 20th, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    It’s easy to have that opinion in a large city where there is lots of choices. In small towns though, the only two choices are: establishments with smoking, or a smoking-ban. The economics of a small town dictate that establishments have to allow smoking, because why would any business owner concede a significant portion of their patronage to the other bar/restaurant/coffee shop/etc where it’s allowed? And someone looking for a job – they’re going to say no to employment because of smoking? There just isn’t a choice out-state if you want your business/livelihood to survive. That’s why the state has to intercede in these cases, because the only way the ‘market’ would correct for this is if smoking rates dropped down below 1%. Even South Dakota has acknowledged this. And most smokers that I know actually like the fact that the indoors of the bars/restaurants they frequent don’t smell like an ashtray anymore.

    BTW – you do not have to start each of your posts with "this is or isn’t political" blah blah blah. Just state your piece.

  4. AB (absalom) on March 20th, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    I disagree with this blog also. Like Robert said, the law has to do with health, not government. Smokers are free to smoke outside. Free to destroy their own lungs, but not free to impose second hand smoke on others.

  5. Liz (lizgiel) on March 20th, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

    Drinking alcohol is terrible for your health. Eating things like buffalo wings and french fries are also horrible for you. Should the state outlaw those things, too? I’m sure people are going to respond with something about how smoking affects others as well, and I totally respect that. But drinking alcohol=drunk drivers=innocent victims hurt or killed in accidents. On that note, driving is super dangerous too, maybe we should make that illegal. And UV rays cause skin cancer, so maybe ya’ll should stay inside and only leave the house for work and emergencies.

    All I can say is that I’m with you Mitchell, this is a decision for bar and restaurant owners, not the government.

    And Barry is right, you don’t have to start your blogs with "this is or isn’t political" but as a blogger and an American citizen, you can if you want to! ;) Nice post/discussion.

  6. Robert Moffitt (justpbob) on March 20th, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

    No waitress or bartender ever suffered health problems becuase of "secondhand buffalo wings," Liz, and the drunk driving analogy doesn’t really work in this discussion. Also, smoking is not "outlawed" or banned in Minnesota. It’s just regulated. Big diff- this isn’t like Prohibition.

    Let’s talk politics for a second. The lawmakers who support a smokefree state outnumber those who do not (each party has members who support or oppose it). The House and Senate leadership support it, as does the Governor, who signed the bill into law nearly two years ago. It’s done. It’s over. We’re not going back.

    I know it’s taken some getting used to, but it’s a law Minnesotans can live with — literally.

  7. Liz (lizgiel) on March 20th, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

    Sure Robert, it’s over and done, but we can still discuss it. And who says we’re not going back? Maybe not anytime soon, but laws have certainly been overturned before.

    As I said before, I knew someone was going to reiterate the hazards of secondhand smoke. I completely understand and I absolutely see your point. I’m not even a smoker, and I enjoy the clean airs of bars and restaurants. But I still don’t think it was appropriate for the government to decide. My point before was (obviously) that there are many things in our world that cause health issues. If we are going to regulate smoking, are we going to start regulating everything that causes adverse health problems?

    In the end, I just have to agree with what Greg said first: "Lots of nanny-state government folks in this state… And legislators who feel they need to legislate something."

    Thanks for responding, Robert!

  8. Robert Moffitt (justpbob) on March 20th, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

    "Sure Robert, it’s over and done, but we can still discuss it. And who says we’re not going back? Maybe not anytime soon, but laws have certainly been overturned before."

    Fair enough! (grin)

    "If we are going to regulate smoking, are we going to start regulating everything that causes adverse health problems?"

    Actually, incidents like the peanut butter recall suggest we are not regulating some things enough. I don’t see this as a slippery slope to the Ultra Nanny State, as some have suggested it might.

    In other states that banned smoking years ago, the laws are still in place, the bars are still open, and people’s civil liberties are still intact. Minnesota’s not the first to travel this path, and South Dakota won’t be the last. As Frued said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," and sometimes a smoking ban is just that, and not the sinister "first step" toward less freedoms, and less fun.

    Have a great weekend, everyone. Keep posting, and keep the faith!

  9. dragonasks on March 23rd, 2009 @ 10:20 am

    lol you pollute the air with one trip to starbucks more than i will ever smokeing, even if i smoke 2 packs a day for 50 years. your stupidity is killing us… why cant we spend the money to ban something that kills more people like fast food, or put a tax on that…and stone to death all the dumb people like the bible tells us to.

  10. Robert Moffitt (justpbob) on March 23rd, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

    More comments like that, dragonasks, and people are going to start picking up stones and looking your direction (grin).

    First there is no "money being spent" here. Second, you are completely wrong about the hazards of secondhand smoke. You do realize we are talking about indoor smoking, right?

    Besides, there is also this:

  11. dragonasks on March 24th, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

    you do realize that windows and doors don’t stop smog from getting in your house right?

    1>how do things become law? we pay people to decide. thats money being spent. enforcing laws, again we pay people to do that…
    2>what about the firsthand smokers? don’t you care about them?
    ok can we at least have a little room on the far outside of town that, maybe air tight with air filters, we smokers can meet up and maybe buy cigs and booze n smoke? like a museum. you need to quit dividing yourself from others and think of us as a whole.

    Let it rain

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