It is worth pointing out that I am on vacation in Virginia, where a pack of cigarettes hovers around $3. Naturally, I find myself asking the same question each day:  “Do I really live in a place where the government has pushed the price of cigarettes to $9 pack?  We’ve allowed this to happen?”  

Market forces have not led to $9 cigarettes in New York, and cigarettes are not an illegal product.  So tell me again why cigarettes cost $9 in New York and $3 in Virginia? One also wonders how Virginian smokers spend that extra six dollars they save by not paying a nonsensical tax that does nothing beyond create anti-smoking advertising and literature for New York. I will guess that Virginians do one of two things with that money. Either they commit that money to personal savings, which seems like a fair option, or they buy something else, which also sounds fair and contributes nicely to the economy, which, in case our state and city governments in New York haven’t noticed, is currently struggling. Compare this to what now happens in New York, where smokers are told to act the way a minority of fanatical anti-smokers declare appropriate, or are forced to watch their money get shoveled into the vacuum of gratuitous government spending.

As for the argument that smokers should be heavily and exclusively taxed in order to pay for programs that prevent young people from picking up the habit, that hardly seems fair. Shouldn’t everyone, smokers and non-smokers alike, be asked to pay for such preventative programs? Why make smokers alone pay that tab? Moreover, if smokers alone are to pay for these programs, it is only fair to insist that other segments of the population pay for other measures that don’t involve the majority of the population. For example, why should individuals who are documented not to possess any STDs, and who thereby can prove that they practice safe sex, be asked to pay taxes that promote safe sex among young people? Why not make only people with STDs pay that bill as a means to discourage people from engaging in unsafe sexual behavior? Unsafe sexual behavior is, after all, a behavior, is it not? Such a policy would be preposterous, of course, for not only would it be grossly insensitive, but it would be patently unfair. Yet, this is exactly the sort of responsibility that has been thrust onto the shoulders of smokers by an aggressive and foolishly self-righteous anti-smoking minority.

Regardless, at the end of my journey, I will have returned to New York with four cartons of cigarettes (carried by myself and my friends), all purchased in Virginia, securing me an absurd savings of approximately $240.  Four cartons of cigarettes will last me a while, and when they run out, there are multiple ways to avoid paying the New York cigarette tax.  In the end, New York will actually have lost money by raising its tax on cigarettes.  New York’s policy doesn’t work, and officials are being delusional when they tell themselves (and everyone else) that it does.

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