Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Weird World Makes No Sense

Picked up on this news bite from the Denialism Blog this morning talking about San Francisco's cigarette butt littering problem. They link to an article in the NY Times where Mayor Gavin Newsom discusses his plan for tackling the cigarette butt problem with a new tax that adds another 33¢ to every pack. Makes sense if the smokers are the ones dumping the butts in the streets, they should also be the ones willing to pay someone to clean them up. Especially the filter ends as they aren't biodegradable, end up washed down the drain and into the oceans where they eventually find their way floating back to the beaches.

However, the poor Mayor has already had a complaint. From the cigarette companies:

“Obviously we think people should follow the littering laws, in California and elsewhere,” said Frank Lester, a spokesman for Reynolds American Inc., the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of cigarettes. “But we oppose any additional taxation on smokers to pay for that.”

It's whose responsibility then? The non smokers? Get real Reynolds American Inc! I think it's funny how the American cigarette companies cry foul all the time and whine about any laws that dig into their profits when their money is made on an addictive poison. I don't think they cigarette companies make nearly as much noise, or it's ignored for the squalling tantrum it really is, when the UK puts photos of tar infested lungs, neck tumors and sluggish sperm on every pack of cigarettes.

UK cigarette warnings kick ass!

I wonder what the tobacco companies would do if they tried this in the USA? It would be litigation Heaven. I've not got time just this minute, but I'd like to look into what Big Tobacco had to say in regards to the pack prices and images the UK launched last Fall. What do you think? Canada and Australia have had similar images for years, have they helped reduce sales and encourage people to quit or never start? Do you have active anti-smoking education weeks like we have in our public schools? If it were suggested images like the ones used in the UK were to be used on cigarette packs in California, what would be the likely outcome?


tornwordo said...

I think in California, you're culturally dirty if you're a smoker. It's all about the healthy there.

Brook said...

I started writing here and decided to put/expand it on my blog-I'm linking back here though. School assembly/graduation for the little one so it might be a while but(t)...=)

NWJR said...

"Do you have active anti-smoking education weeks like we have in our public schools? "

Indeed. The anti-smoking Cabal is alive and well in the public schools, where kids are practically told they'll die if they're in the same room with a smoker for more than five minutes.

I'm exaggerating...but not by much.

NWJR said...

"a new tax that adds another 33¢ to every pack. Makes sense if the smokers are the ones dumping the butts in the streets, they should also be the ones willing to pay someone to clean them up"

That would be well and fine if the money actually went towards hiring people with brooms and dustpans to clean up the butts. But (no pun intended) it won't happen. The money will go into a general fund like it always does, no additional street cleaners will be hired, and the money will disappear down the endless gullet of the hungry government. The tobacco companies know this, the public knows this, and I suspect anyone reading my rant knows this, too. It's not about cleaning up the streets, really. It's about using the tax code to affect behaviour.

THAT'S the real problem. Of course, since "everyone" hates smokers, they're an easy target. It's the start of the slippery slope. What's next? Go after people who eat beef because it's unhealthy? Shall we put pictures of clogged arteries on bread wrappers since a high-carbohydrate diet leads to heart disease? Where does it end?

I have a real problem with using the tax code for social engineering.

Maja said...

I actually noticed when I used to smoke that I felt more careless about littering, and the more often I smoked, the happier I was to drop my butt on the ground. I was fully conscious of my uncaring feeling about it, too, which made me make the effort to take it to a bin sometimes, but most times I just didn't.

Nej said...

I'm sure just putting the Surgeon General's warning on the packs created a big enough stir, I can't imagine what attention pics of unhealthy lungs would bring. :-)

Although, I really do wonder if any of that helps?? I'm not a smoker, never have been...and have never been tempted by it. So I just can't say.

There is a lady here at work, diagnosed with COPD, her mom and sister died from the same thing. She KNOWS what it's doing, yet she continues to smoke.

I still remember when commercials on TV and ads in newspapers went away.

Roxrocks said...

Here in Canada, the message is everywhere. Sadly, still the kids light up and the tobacco addicts are still dying.

The tobacco companies are lining up to defend the smokers' rights to not be taxed into oblivion because they want the smokers to still be able to afford to smoke. They want to be on their side...

I still can't get the images of my MIL dying of COPD from her lifetime of cigarettes and asthma. They should put THAT on a cigarette package.

(Maybe they's been a long time since I smoked!)

Overboard said...

Smokers are fools.
And then they get sick.
And are a drain on the NHS.
Uh, idiots.
So not sexy either.
Big ewwwwwwww.
I could would never date a smoker.
They have DUMB written all over them.

Overboard said...

p.s I can't believe you yankees don't have the diseased lung pics on your packs yet. Democracy! Pah.
Hey, there's a guy here, with only one lung due to something he was born with, and that dick smokes. Dohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Hacking and coughing all the time. Complaining about how he can't breath etc, and still smoking.
Uh duh.

jomamma said...

The hubby is a smoker, believe me raising the price, taxing, pictures you name it, it won't stop them. Even having cancer won't stop them. They are hard headed. I think they should just lower the price and let them smoke. The money doesn't go back to the community or to people. It dang sure doesn't go to helping people to quit smoking. Raising the price won't hurt the smoker. The only ones it hurts are the kids or families of the smoker. I see people everywhere who have their kids signed up for free lunches at the school and they buy their groceries with food stamps, yet they buy their cigarettes. And you know they can't buy them by the carton which is the cheapest way to buy them, not at $50 a carton. It's a nasty habit and I feel for people that are addicted. The hubby has quit 4 times in the last 28 years, everyone has their vices and I pitty those that have this. It's an addiction right up there with cocaine and pot... it's just the legal drug.

Lyvvie said...

There's got to be something going on in America that's different. Here there's a real stigma to be a smoker. you're seen as weak, as a victim, as lacking that true grit the Brits are known for. I'm not saying there aren't smokers - of course there are. But they tend to be the more apologetic types. There are a few louder "I'm a smoker and proud!" sorts but they are looked upon as cranks, purveyors of poisons and in the deepest denial; on the latter they are.

I was a smoker - heavy smoker! - for years but I always knew it was bad, hated the expense, hated not being able to get up stairs without losing my breath and always Always knew it was my own fault. Chronic tonsillitis, coughing up small, clear hard chunks of something I convinced myself was esophageal cartilage. I finally started telling myself - why am I paying my money (and to a university student every cent is precious) on something that will kill me? I'm paying cigarette companies to kill me. Once I worked that realization around for a few years the urge began to drop.

I do not believe for a minute that these ad campaigns don't work. They absolutely work. They certainly reinforce to me why I stopped smoking. And let me tell you, I'll never say I'm a non-smoker. I know once addicted, always addicted and just one would send the habit back. fully aware. Stress I'm in just now, and having Mom puffing outside my back door, don't think I'm not tempted. But I'm not going to.

When the peer pressure reaches a point to make a smoker feel like they are being selfish for inflicting death and the pain of their death upon their loved ones, people will be more encouraged to stop. Guilt and reality is a wonderful motivator.

Lyvvie said...

And just to be clear, when I smoked, I voted to yes to every tobacco tax and restriction law that came my way and if I was in San Francisco, I'd be right there supporting the Mayor. He has a clear plan for the funds raised from the tax, openly announced, it would be rather foolish of him to squirrel those funds away for something else. He's seems at the few readings I've had of him, a pretty savvy guy (Handsome too!) and not one who'd go for political suicide openly. Fingers crossed, he's actually a Mayor who gives a shit about his people. Ever optimistic.

jomamma said...

Oh I know Lyvvie, you are preaching to the choir here. My sister quit for 15 years, started up after her divorce. I think it must have something to do with our Ego over here. You know... that "you aren't the boss of me" sort of way we think.

I thought the hubby would quit when the price of a pack went to $3... now they are double that. And then when he got cancer.... nah, that didn't concern him either, it wasn't lung cancer after all. So the butts on the ground sure won't bother him, he does clean them up around the house at least. And I agree, smokers tend to not care about a lot of stuff. Where the smoke blows and where the butts end up.

I think they'd legalize pot if they could figure out a way to tax it. Isn't that what happened back in the day when they legalized booze and started controlling the sale of it and tobacco? Where does it stop? It stops when we put our foot down and say... No we're not doing or paying for that anymore. We have towns here in Texas that have totally banned smoking in public places. So you know what the hubby does? He doesn't go to those towns. In ways the towns loose money. But this won't make everyone quit smoking. Not those die-hards... no pun intended.

btw... Jolea brought home all those gross pictures from her friends in OZ to show her daddy... they didn't gross him out.

Nej said...

There are huge debates and troubles stirring here, because our city just (finally) went to no smoking inside public places. Bars, etc. The argument is the government telling business owners what they can and can't do in their own businesses. It's ugly when it comes up in conversation.

As a non-smoker, I love it!!! I can go places now, and still breathe...and not stink when I get home. It lovely. I don't have the smoke of other people's addiction affecting me. I can't control what others do, and will never try. But...when the habits of others start controlling my life...where I can and can't go, etc, etc....well, it's a tad annoying, to say the least.

Just from what I've seen around me, the stigma of being cool because you smoke has changed. I'm not saying it has changed everywhere...but in the world around me, it has. It's gone from being the cool thing, to being the gross thing. And the unhealthy.

NWJR said...

"He has a clear plan for the funds raised from the tax, openly announced, it would be rather foolish of him to squirrel those funds away for something else."Lyvvie, as much as I'd like to think you're right, I have yet to see one of these programs apply the money as it was intended. In my state, the money went to deficit reduction (and we still have a massive deficit.

I appreciate your optimism, but I don't share it. And I guarantee that if the trash-pickers are put in place, and the problem is solved, the tax won't be rescinded when they're all fired.

"There's got to be something going on in America that's different."

Perhaps. We're not the kind of people that like our gub'mint telling us what to do (see, it's supposed to work the other way around). I know a bar owner who installed very expensive ventilation equipment as mandated by the government (over $125,00 worth) to rid his bar of secondhand smoke, only to have smoking banned in his establishment less than six months later. Costs like that can put people out of business (indeed, some DID go out of business), and it's unfair, plain and simple. Smoking is still a legal activity. Want to ban it altogether? Fine. But be honest about it, not through these backdoor machinations. They get away with it because everyone "hates" smokers, and smokers themselves (as you pointed out) are notorious self-loathers as well.

But this kind of activity sets a horrible precedent. Mark my words.

But...when the habits of others start controlling my life...where I can and can't go, etc, etc....well, it's a tad annoying, to say the least.Ah, the smoker could say the same thing. When these busybodies are done with cigarettes, they'll move on to sugary snacks. Meat. Butter. Whatever offends their tender sensibilities and lifestyle choices. Hell, they tried to ban Foie gras in Chicago. It will never end until someone stands up and says "enough".

Nej said...

I think we're demonstrating the issue in America, right here in the comments to the post. :-)

There is an argument on each side. Those that smoke, because it's their right, a legal activity....and those that don't want to suffer the effects of the habits of OTHERS.

Smokers tell non-smokers to just go to a different bar, to a different restaurant. Thereby telling them where they can and can't go.

Non smokers tell smokers to not smoke in public they can enjoy a night out at a bar or bowling alley without coughing from the smoke and smelling. Thereby telling smokers what they can and can't do, and where they can and can't do it.

Like I said, when it comes up in conversation, it never goes well.