Smokers: An Endangered Species

If you are a smoker you are on the EPA’s list of endangered species, because if the American Lung Association and drug companies have their way, you will no longer have the right to make that choice.

The American Lung Association is using it’s deep coffers to bombard American’s with the message that smoking is wrong and immoral. If they get their way, smokers will be paying an additional $2.00 in taxes per pack.

Glaxo Smith Kline is launching an Italian marketing campaign for anti-smoking products this week (January 9, 2005) as pharmaceutical groups gear up to cash in where their rivals in the tobacco sector are losing out. The fresh focus on smoking in southern Europe follows a 36 per cent increase in sales of GSK’s products in Ireland since that country introduced a ban on smoking in public places at the end of March 2004. GSK plans to follow up with similar campaigns in Spain and Portugal.

Smokers today are made to feel guilty for lighting up. They are treated as second class citizen’s who’s rights take a backseat to everyone else.

Michigan Proposed Smoking Ban

Michigan Senator Ray Basham, D-Taylor, has introduced legislation; the Michigan Smoke-Free Dining Act (SB 186),  which would prohit smoking in all Michigan Restaurants.

Rob Gifford, executive director of the Michigan Restaurant Association, which  fiercely opposes the no-smoking proposal, says it amounts to nannyism by government.

States like Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Indiana, Maine and New York  have smoking bans currently in place for restaurants, many include bars and bowling  alleys.

Several other states are currently considering smoking bans: Michigan, Georgia and  Utah to name a few, as well as many several countries.

Oklahoma Business Friendly State

Oklahomans seem to have gotten it right. In July 2002, the Oklahoma  legislature passed a law that regulates restaurants serving more than 50  customers. Restaurant owners may elect to declare themselves entirely  smoking, entirely smoke-free or effectively smoke-free. If they choose,  the classification of “effectively smoke-free,” they must provide separately ventilated smoking rooms.

This new law also applies to indoor workplaces with 15 or more employees,  bars, pools halls, bowling, adult day care, malls, and certain medical facilities.  Hotel lobbies and youth camps are to be smokefree.

This law makes sense. After all when an individual decides to put it all on  the line to open their own business, shouldn’t they have the right to cater to  their own clientel? In a capitalist society such as ours, the customer rules.

If a business owner is not meeting the needs of his or her customer base,  they won’t remain in business for very long.

One bowling alley owner in New York recently folded because his customers  were not interested in a non-smoking bowling league. League play is the bread  and butter of the bowling alley, without them, they just won’t keep the doors  open long, negatively impacting many small communities and local economies.

Smoking Ban Impacts Businesses

Though I’ve heard legislators over and over again say there is no evidence  that the new smoking bans have had a negative impact on business revenues. I’ve  found plenty of evidence to the contrary, simply by searching google.

In California, it’s easy to spot a bar, it’s the building with all the  smokers congregated outside the doorway. Bar owners have been kind in most  instances providing plastic lawn chair seating for patrons who wish to  light up. When the band takes a break it’s not uncommon to find an empty  bar because everyone is outside, how ridiculous.

Where California enjoys mild winters and mostly sunny weather, Michigan  smokers are at the whim of mother nature.

Facing winter weather with wind chill factors often below zero, just being  outside can present it’s own health risks. Can the state be held liable for those  who would succum to harsh winter weather if forced to move outside to light up?  I’m sure that’s one the courts will have to decide.

Smoking Ban Waivers

States such as New York, make waivers available to businesses who  can prove their business has been harmed, by more than 15%, because of the  smoking ban. The problem is that by the time the data becomes available  the business is likely to be already in finacial trouble.

Anyone who has ever owned a restaurant knows that the bookkeeping  end of the business is a huge job and takes months to compile accurate  statements. A direct coorelation between the non-smoking bans and  income losses can be a tough one to prove, few have passed muster.

Smoking as a rule is banned in hospitals, government buildings, museums,  schools and theatres everywhere. Most states ban smoking at work and in  train or bus stations and airports. Chain restaurants are increasingly non-smoking.

Smoking is banned on domestic airplanes, however, a few airports still have  smoking sections. I always try to connect in St. Louis, which has many smoking  booths, they are terrible, smoke-filled enclosed cubicles, with smoke so think  you can cut it with a knife. Even the terrible conditions do not deter anxious  smokers, who welcome the sight. Just beware, if you don’t have lung cancer  when you go in, you will by the time you come out. They are well used and the  smoke hangs in the air like a dense fog on a San Francisco morning, despite it’s  ventilation system.

California to Ban Smoking on Beaches

California is taking it to the next level. The state already has smoking bans  in place for restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, government buildings, public  buildings and playgrounds. They are currently seeking to  ban  smoking on all beaches and piers. Supporters say smokers are littering the  coast with unsightly cigarette butts and present a fire hazard to wooden piers.

I’m not certain what they expected. Most beach areas do not provide ashtrays. At  least when people were smoking inside, they had a place to extinguish their butts.  I guess you can’t have everything.

Or maybe they can. If California succeeds in passing this new bill, smoking  will be effectively comfined to the comfort of your own home, unless of course  you live in a non-smoking residence or if you have children.

Smokers who wish to avoid exposing their children to smoke will be forced  to put them up for adoption, in order to protect them from harmful exposure.

Well, ok, they haven’t gone that far yet, but it’s coming. There have already  been legal cases in California where the parents are barred, by court order, from  smoking around their own children. Some will say, “And rightly so.”

But if smoking is not allowed in public and it’s not allowed in the privacy of  your own home, where can you light up? Do you have the right to?

Not if big brother has his way.

Congress Exempt

I find it curious that in Washington D.C. smoking is banned in all government  buildings, except in Congress.

You mean to tell me that our congressmen, who are so concerned over our health  and well-being that they continually pass restrictive regulations intended to keep  us from hurting ourselves, have exempted themselves from the public smoking laws?  That’s exactly what I’m saying.

It seems American has a special class of citizen, one to which the laws do not  apply. Our legislators have their own retirement plan. They aren’t required to pay  7.5% off the top of their wages, like the rest of us (15% if you are self-employed).  Of course they won’t be eligible to collect from the Social Security fund either.

They have a much better plan, allowing them to collect their full wages, just as they  are now, each and every year until they die. (With cost of living raises of course.)  It’s a pretty sweety deal they have voted for themselves and it’s paid for by you and  I.

They also aren’t prohibited from smoking inside, which may endanger their non-smoking staff members, like the rest of American’s.

I don’t know about you but this burns my biscuits.

Internet Tax on Cigarettes

As if all this were not enough, legislators are considering forcing Indian tribes to  charge taxes to all non-indians for cigarette sales and forcing internet businesses to  charge sales taxes on all cigarette sales.

Many years ago Camel had an ad promotion that said, “I’d rather fight than  switch.” If smokers don’t begin to stand up for their rights and fight, they  will be forced to quit.

The state of New York wants to increase the tax on a single pack of cigarettes  by $7.00, an outrageous amount by any standard.

If these proposed tax laws are enacted, we will see the courts filled with  individuals charged with tax evasion because many of us who choose to smoke will  be priced out of the market.

Quitting Smoking a Challenge

The enconomy has been hard hit over the past few years and any smoker can  attest how difficult quitting can be, even under optimal circumstances. Add the  stress of a lost job and finacial troubles and quitting becomes all but an  impossibility.

Of course today we have all these wonderful new fangled smoking cessation  aids, which cost an arm and a leg. (We have the pharmaceutical companies to thank  for that.) Anyone considering quitting had better be serious because they cost  more than a carton of cigarettes.

If the government wants to raise taxes in order to promote non-smoking as  they claim, the money should be used to subsidize smoking cessation aids for  the poor.

We all know that even those with health insurance have trouble purchasing  items to help them remain healthy because health insurance in our country  refuses to cover preventative medical treatments. You have to be sick to  get help. But that’s an entirely different article.

Big Government gets Bigger

Most of us are well aware of government creep, the cost of and size of which  continues to grow exponentially each year. This infestation of government  intrusion and regulation must be halted if the family and small business  owner is going to prosper and flourish in todays economic  environment.

While today we are talking about smokers-rights, this issue should not  be of concern to just smokers or those who adamently against smoking. This  is a national issue, one that should be of concern to all American’s because  our freedoms are being stripped away one layer at a time.

Don’t think for one minute that government officials will stop at taxing  cigarettes over the internet. Oh no. If they are successful in convincing  taxpayers that smokers should pay taxes for cigarettes purchased online, other  items will follow, post-haste.

Each year, they spend a little more and they take a little more, always  convincing us that it’s for our own benefit.

Just like when we tell our children that this shot is good for them  and the pain only hurts for a little while. Many parents have discovered  that the pain can last a lifetime for their child. Our children will be  paying for this governments spending spree for many years to come.

If you don’t care enough to do it for yourself, do it for your children,  for their right to live in freedom and in economic health. Call your  legislator today and tell them the spending and taxing must stop. Tell your  legislator you expect him or her to uphold the constitution and protect the  freedoms guaranteed to you and your family under its articles. Your  children will be glad you did.

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Smoke-Shop Review Panel Report

Update According to a panel, led by Brown University President Ruth Simmons, the creation of a state commission on tribal-state relations is recommended, for the purpose of developing an agreement between the state and tribe on cigarette taxes.

Story in Pictures: History Of Smoke Shop

Rhode Island State Police Raid Narragansett Indian Tribe Smoke Shop

Posted: July 16, 2003
By Annette M. Hall


Story Update – Governor gets heat for Police Action.

In a shocking display of force the Rhode Island State Police raided the Narragansett Indian tribe’s recently opened tax-free smoke shop. The vicious police attack sent eight tribal members to the hospital, another seven, including the chief landed in jail. A lawsuit against the state has been filed, according to press reports.

The state police were reportedly asked to show their court papers as they entered the lot but requests were ignored. The troopers, continued to swarm across the parking lot and entered the tax-free shop.

Several tribal members were wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. Meanwhile police confiscated the cigarettes remaining on the shelves and confiscated about $900 in cash.

The tribe had postponed opening the shop nearly two months while it attempted to work with state finacial advisers, to find other ways of becoming economically self-sufficient.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas told reporters hours after his arrest. “I personally blame the governor of this state and I think he should be ashamed of the actions that took place down here.”

Who could blame the Chief for being angry? Here is a tribe who gave up 3,200 acres of land in the heart of Charlestown in 1978, in exchange for 1,800 acres of land. Now unless that land had gold on it just waiting to be mined, that doesn’t seem fair at all. However the trade allowed them to escape relocation.

It all began when the State of Rhode Island had denied them tribal status for over 100 years, and sold their reservation lands. The state was able to get away with this dastardly deed because the Narragansett had never signed a treaty with the United States of America. Thus creating a legal loophole, in which to avoid compliance with the Non-interference Act of 1790.

In 1975, the Narragansett had filed a land reclaimation suit. Their land was finally returned to them, and their sovereignty upon the land finally recognized in 1978.

The agreement was codified as the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act 25 U.S.C. § § 1701-1716. In 1983, the Narragansetts finally earned federal recognition.

For years the State of Rhode Island and the tribe have been at odds. Most recently over the gambling issue.

It’s no secret that Native American Indians have been hit hard by high unemployment rates and high poverty rates with many relying on the welfare rolls to sustain themselves.

Gaming is a way of life in the Native American culture, and now more than ever, it has become a source of revenue and livelihood for an oppressed people.

In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which confirmed the sovereign rights of tribes to regulate gaming on tribal lands, unless the state specifically forbids that certain kind of gambling.

In 1992, the Narragansett planned to build a casino on their Charleston reservation, when they were met with a federal court challenge brought by the state. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the tribe in October 1994, which allowed that them to build a casino on their land, much to the frustration of the state.

Equal Protection Under The Law

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states in part: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Couldn’t this have been handled in a more appropriate manner? Is that not what our courts are for? Is the State of Rhode Island so money-hungry that they can’t allow the Narragansett to earn a living in an honest manner?

Businesses on other American Indian properties are allowed to sell cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products free of state taxes. In fact, twenty states have used cigarettes to balance their 2002 budgets, Seneca Nation built a new tobacco distribution center on the Cattaraugus Reservation.

Those rules also apply in cyberspace. Tribal businesses like the Big Indian Smoke Shop are finding a nationwide market for their tax-free tobacco.

“All of the states hate us. But if they want to put us out of business, all they have to do is do away with the taxes,” said Ward of Seneca Nation.

Contact Governor Donald L. Carcieri

Sound Off!

Annette M. Hall