Smoker exploitation: Coming soon to a state near you


A little while before my daughter was born, I quit smoking. I had tried for years to give it up, and had managed to go from smoking more than two packs of Marlboro Red 100's a day to sucking down one measly pack of Basic Ultra Lights. However, the pending arrival of my daughter, combined with the fact that my self-imposed smoking exile meant that I couldn't hang out with my wife, convinced me to take that final step. I got my doctor to set me up with Welbutrin, laid in a huge stock of rubber bands and gum, and quit cold turkey. In the ensuing two and a half years, I haven't had a single cigarette, although I've been known to suck nicotine off the fingers of total strangers.

I figure that I've saved myself somewhere around $3,000, and I've never felt better; in fact, the smell of cigarette smoke now makes me a little nauseated. Still, I can't quite buy into the smoking harassment that the media and the government seem so ready to lay out. I remember my years of sucking cancer sticks, and recall that the nasty looks, fake coughs, and snide comments only made me more stubborn in my determination to keep my habit. Besides, it was cheaper for me to continue smoking than it was to quit. Zyban, the pill that finally helped me quit, cost more than my cigarettes; until I had health insurance, it was a deal-breaker.

Over the last few days, I've seen a fresh round of the "let's bash a smoker" laws that unpleasantly remind me of the days I spent chained to the demon weed. For starters, New York is talking about jacking up the taxes on a pack of smokes by $1.50. Currently, New York State charges $1.50 per pack tax and New York City charges the same. The state, however, is pursuing a $1 a pack hike and the city is looking to add another $0.50. This means that smokers in New York City could soon be looking at paying $4.50 per pack in taxes.