2012-01-23 P-D: “McClellan: Blowing some smoke in the Show-Me state”

Reminder: For a comment to be considered it must be accompanied by your full name: first name only or a pseudonym is not normally accepted. Please limit your comment to 1,000 characters (including spaces), and also avoid epithets and personal attacks.

This title to today’s Bill McClellan column filled me with a certain amount of trepidation, because McClellan has struck me as inclined to support smokers, hanging out with them in local watering holes, as well as having Libertarian leanings. I was thus pleasantly surprised to find myself agreeing with his humorous observations skewering those in the Missouri legislature who are consistently opposed to raising cigarette taxes. Proponents argue, with good reason, that raising cigarette taxes both deters or reduces smoking, especially among young people, while simultaneously raising revenue.

Those who argue that if you raise taxes on cigarettes then net income will remain the same are ignoring the fact that smoking is rather like gasoline: once you’re hooked because of nicotine addiction or using a car to get to work, it’s difficult to break the addiction. Demand remains pretty inelastic in the absence of a large increase in taxes.

Anyway, enjoy McClellan’s piece, which is a hoot. (And possibly check out some of the sour reader comments on-line by clicking on the “Comments” link below.) The only thing I would have changed is the title.

I would have chosen “Blowing smoke in the Smoke-Me state.”

McClellan: Blowing some smoke in the Show-Me state
Bill McClellan • bmcclellan@post-dispatch.com, 314-340-8143 | Posted: Monday, January 23, 2012 12:15 am | Comments (55 as of January 23, 2012, 8:32 pm)

Governor Jay Nixon during his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Missouri legislature on January 17, 2012, in Jefferson City.
P-D photo by Emily Rasinski

Good morning, ladies and gentleman of the Missouri General Assembly. It is my pleasure — and an honor — to introduce Gov. Jay Nixon, who intends to give a second State of the State address. Last week’s address was for public consumption. This morning’s is the real deal. Please give a Show-Me welcome to Gov. Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon!
         (Muted applause. Sen. Jason Crowell makes flatulence sounds into his microphone.)
         “Good morning. Or maybe it’s not so good. Let’s be honest. You can’t count on the weather in this state. This time of year, we might go through three seasons a day, and none of them are summer. Yet we’re supposed to compete with places that are warm and sunny all year?
         “But that’s what we’re trying to do. Our economic development team is working with our marketing team to identify our strengths and build on them.
         “Our number one strength? We have the lowest cigarette tax in the country!”
         (Wild applause. Sen. Crowell makes siren sounds into his microphone.)
         “By the way, the smoking lamp is lit. Smoke ’em if you got ’em!”
         (More applause and siren sounds.)
         “Our economic development team is working to identify companies with CEOs who smoke.          Once those companies are identified, we’ll be contacting the CEOs. We’ll point out that a heavy smoker can save hundreds of dollars a year in our state.
         “Our marketing team is working with our friends in Washington …”
         (Boos, hisses and flatulence sounds.)
         “No, no. Hear me out. Our marketing people are trying to get permission to place a Missouri logo next to the warning labels on packs of cigarettes. Right after ‘Smoking can cause lung cancer and emphysema,’ we’ll have our logo!”
         (Applause, siren sounds.)
         “As part of that same campaign, we’re thinking of dropping the ‘Show Me’ slogan in favor of ‘Cheap Smokes.’ That has a ring, doesn’t it? ‘Missouri, the Cheap Smokes state.’ ”
         (Applause, siren sounds.)
         “Maybe we’ll make the Dirt Cheap Bird our state mascot. I’m sure some of the do-gooders will criticize me, but what part of ‘Cheap, Cheap, Fun, Fun’ don’t they get?”
         (Applause, siren sounds, some chanting, “Cheap, Cheap, Fun, Fun.”)
         “Our tourism people will also be targeting smokers. We’ll soon unveil an entire campaign aimed at getting smokers to vacation in Missouri.
         “In that same vein, we’re going to try to grow our state by getting smokers to move here. But we’ll be looking for a certain kind of smoker — a healthy smoker.
         “That’s because we’re cutting Medicaid again!”
         (Wild applause, siren sounds.)
         “I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of people expecting the taxpayers to provide their health insurance.”
         (Uneasy mumbling, half-hearted flatulence sounds.)
         “Present company excluded, that is!”
(Wild applause, siren sounds.)
         “Speaking of cuts, I’d like to talk about higher education. If you follow higher education in this state, you already know that Mizzou has joined the Southeastern Conference. We’re in the SEC!”
         (Deafening applause, siren sounds. As the applause finally dies down, a few legislators start singing “Dixie.”)
         “I want to be perfectly clear about this. We face some financial challenges, but I have assured Coach Gary Pinkel that the football budget will not be cut. It will be raised! Significantly!”
         (Wild applause, siren sounds.)


2 responses to “2012-01-23 P-D: “McClellan: Blowing some smoke in the Show-Me state”

  1. I found his piece quite humorous, on a serious not, all the draconian taxes do is cause smuggling, using kids in many cases. http://peoplesrepubmadison.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/attack-on-wisconsin-ryo-shops-are-an-attack-on-liberty/

  2. The big push for increased tobacco taxes began in 2002 when most states, and finally the federal govt began increasing tobacco taxes ( a lot) . Yet, since then, national teen and adult smoking rates have not decreased. – EG our national smoking rates are about the same as 2002. For MOGASP to say that proponents of hiking cig taxes do so with good reason, ignores that fact. But antismoking advocates never let the facts get in the way.
    here is my research on that topic:
    states with high cig tax rates, and statistically just as likely to have high smoking rates as states with low cig tax rates.
    And Dr. Siegel, on his blog, now admits cig taxes are ineffective at driving down smoking rates.

    mogasp comment: What you allege makes sense if the increased cigarette taxes collected just go into general revenue or the like. However, aggressive well-funded statewide programs, e.g. in California, have apparently been effective. (California is among the states with the lowest smoking rates in the country. ref: http://oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/188/StateEstimates.pdf ) There’s also the following quote, on-line here: http://tinyurl.com/82lqahx

    “One possible explanation links high rates of teen smoking with lower excise taxes on cigarettes. The idea is that higher taxes deter people from smoking, especially younger people, who usually don’t have much disposable income. Specifically, cigarette taxes in Kentucky and Wyoming are less than 60 cents per pack . That brings the total price for a pack of cigarettes to around $3.70 . Cigarette taxes in states with fewer teen smokers were often higher, by comparison. For example, just the taxes in D.C. add $2.50 per pack, and in Hawaii, they add $2.60 per pack, making cigarettes very costly in these states, between $4.65 and $5.85 each [sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Boonn].”

Leave a Reply to Marshall Keith Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s