David Harsanyi writes: After news of the baffling decision by the New York grand jury not to indict a police officer in the killing of Eric Garner, I sent out a (slightly) hyperbolic tweet that wondered why Americans would want to entrust their free speech and health care to an institution that will kill you over failure to pay a cigarette tax.
If they can kill you over a cigarette tax, why would you trust them to run the internet, regulate your speech and choose your health care?
— David Harsanyi (@davidharsanyi) December 4, 2014
Since then, I’ve seen numerous tweets discounting this argument as preposterous. It’s something akin to blaming jaywalking for the death of Michael Brown, we’re told. Rand Paul touched on the issue in an interview on msnbc yesterday and was, predictably, ridiculed for it by liberals – because mentioning the circumstances of a violent act is preposterous, apparently.
Though it certainly isn’t close to being the most important lesson of this inexplicable case, it’s not something that should be dismissed so flippantly.
Garner wasn’t targeted for death because he was avoiding taxes, but nonetheless, prohibitive cigarette taxes unnecessarily create situations that make events like this possible.
We frame violent acts and unintended consequences in this way all the time. When we discuss how illegal immigrant women can be the helpless victims of domestic violence, we also blame unreasonable laws for creating the situation. Read the rest of this entry »
“If I cannot smoke cigars in heaven,
I shall not go!”
– attributed to Mark Twain
Jonah Goldberg writes: If you have read my articles for this magazine, or if you perused my last book, you may have detected the vague scent of tobacco wafting up from it. That is because I can often be found at my office away from the office: the cigar shop (specifically, Signature Cigars in Washington, D.C., the capital’s best tobacconist). When not there, I can often be found on the twelfth-floor balcony of the American Enterprise Institute, also with stogie in hand. A friend and former colleague and I gave this balcony a nickname, “The Remnant,” in homage to Albert Jay Nock’s notion of an irreducible sliver of right-thinking humanity separate and apart from the “Neolithic” masses.
Nock’s was a thoroughly elitist conception, which is ironic, since smoking cigars may be the most democratic thing I do. At the cigar shop, the clientele is mixed in nearly every way, though you wouldn’t say it “looks like America.” A large proportion of the African-American regulars are D.C. cops. In terms of professions, the crowd leans a bit too heavily toward lawyers (as does the nation’s capital). But there’s no shortage of contractors, manual laborers, college students, and retirees.
Politically, there are all types. As far as I can tell, the most ideologically conservative regular (me included) is a federal employee. The gender mix is thoroughly lopsided, of course. Women do occasionally come into the shop, but when they do, all eyes go up as if a unicorn had sauntered into a library. Dennis Prager, another gentleman of the leaf, has written that cigar shops may be the last place in America where men can congregate and talk as men. It’s not discrimination, mind you, it’s just that cigar smoke tends to have the same effect on the fairer sex that it has on mosquitoes.
What unites us all is a fondness for — or craving for — cigars, not tobacco per se mind you, but cigars. It is generally frowned upon to smoke cigarettes in a cigar shop. Pipes may be welcome (I for one think they have the best aroma), but I don’t think I have ever seen one smoked in a cigar shop, even though nearly all good tobacconists sell pipes and their associated sundries.
In football (a subject of near-constant discussion at the cigar shop) there’s a saying, “Watch the ball, not the man.” With cigars, something similar is at work. The camaraderie follows the leaf. On the road, I will often be seen outside my hotel preparing for a speech or writing a column with cigar in hand. Invariably another cigar smoker will catch the scent and, at a minimum, nod his appreciation. Often he will strike up a conversation about what I’m smoking or where there might be a good cigar shop in the area. One thing he will never do is ask for a cigar. Cigars are things of real value, emotionally and financially, and when they are given away, it’s as a gift. Cigarettes are filthy commodities shared among a lesser genus of addicts. There’s a reason it’s called “bumming a cigarette.”
Indeed, the similarities between cigars and cigarettes are more limited than you might think. For starters, you don’t inhale the smoke from cigars, at least not intentionally, which is one reason why the risks of lung cancer for cigar smokers are tiny when compared with those for cigarette smokers. Sadly, this fact often causes cigarette smokers to take up cigars, only to discover that they can’t kick the habit of inhaling, a practice that horrifies cigar aficionados and doctors alike.
Reason TV’s latest “Don’t Cops Have Better Things To Do”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, (and Explosives!) has been fighting cigarette smuggling by smuggling cigarettes. Agents buy smokes in low-tax states like Virginia and sell them in high-tax states like New York. The sting operations are supposed to help build cases against smugglers, but ATF is cashing in too.
By law ATF may keep booty to cover “operational expenses.” As if the line between law breakers and law enforcers wasn’t blurry enough already, a recent inspector general report highlights a “serious lack of oversight” at the agency. Seems that confidential informants have been allowed pocket, not expenses, but profits amounting to millions of dollars. ATF agents have “misused” $162 million in sting operation profits and “lost track” of $420 million cigarettes. (Yes, this is the same ATF that lost more than a thousand weapons during the infamous Fast and Furious fiasco.) And if you’re having trouble distinguishing the “good” guys from the “bad” guys, just remember: The “good” guys are the ones who get taxpayer-funded salaries and pensions.
But hey, don’t federal agents have better things to do! Well, ATF’s own most-wanted list features men suspected of crimes like murder, so yeah, agents could focus more time busting violent criminals. Then again, cigarette smuggling is much more lucrative.
The timing of this couldn’t be worse for the ATF, either.
Nearly nine out of 10 Chinese children aged 5 and 6 can identify at least one cigarette brand, and roughly one out of five say they expect to smoke when they grow up.
The survey, which questioned 396 children Jialing town in Qi County, Shanxi province, found that 71% of Chinese 5- and 6-year-olds had someone who used tobacco in their household while 86% could identify at least one cigarette brand – higher than survey counterparts in Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan or Russia.
The researchers said they chose Jialing, a small town in China’s northwest, rather than a place like Beijing or Shanghai because they thought it would be representative of what a typical child in China might see. Previous surveys have foundsmoking rates to be higher in the Chinese countryside than they are in cities.