It’s been a bad week for convenience store workers. The state legislature passed a law last year that took effect, raising cigarette prices a full dollar. So naturally all week the clerks have been hearing complaints about cigarettes now nearing $5 a pack. I have yet to actually be at a convenience store without hearing someone complain about it.
The funniest complaints are from those that are going to protest the new tax by quitting cigarette smoking. It’s firstly funny because that’s ostensibly part of the point. Cigarettes are fair game because it’s a “sin” tax and the government wants to put a disincentive on sinning. It’s secondly funny because it seems that any state that passes a cigarette tax starts to see revenues fall short and then proceed to complain about it in budget sessions, thus validating the protest.
The most creative complaint I heard was from a young guy that looked like a U of E college student. His complaint was not so much with the dollar tax so much as it was with the sales tax added on top of that. He didn’t understand why he was paying tax on the tax. Sales taxes, he explained, were originally put in to place as luxury taxes, which is why groceries are often excluded. Well, there’s nothing luxurious about taxes except insofar as paying them keeps you out of prison. So why was he having to pay a tax on the tax?
I thought it was actually something of a convincing argument, but the civics lesson was lost on the obviously annoyed clerk.
On the subject of cigarettes and convenience stores, the other day I saw a big sign that said that there was a limit on Philip Morris USA cigarettes of ten cartons per day. Ten. Cartons. What possible use is a 10 carton limit? That’s 2,000 cigarettes. That’s 83 cigarettes an hour, which if a cigarette takes about four minutes to smoke means that they are smoking five and a half cigarettes a time, all 24 hours of the day.
So I assume that they’re worried about reselling, but I can’t even make sense of that. Why would either the convenience store of PMUSA care about that? All that should matter, theoretically, is that the cartons sell. It shouldn’t really matter who to. I asked the clerk about it and she said that it was imposed by PMUSA. Why would Philip Morris care but not Winston-Salem or Leggett? If it was a matter of people stockpiling in one state (with lower cig taxes) and then taking them to another (with higher), that would be a matter for the law to decide. I thought it might be connected to the tax increase, but the signs are still up even though it is still in effect.
How often do they really have to worry about someone wanting to buy more than ten cartons? Does it really warrant a sign that they could otherwise be using for advertising? Is it part of a tobacco settlement that I am unaware of? I’d never seen the signs up until recently and most of those were settled a long time ago. Then again, it seems like it was well after the settlements that the tobacco companies (PMUSA in particular) started running ads just to offer people information on how to stop using their product.
But in any event, if a person is really sincere about buying a lot of cigarettes, can’t they just go to the next store and buy ten more?
The last thing is that I’ve noticed that many of the same people that hate, hate, hate the tobacco companies believe that pot should be legal. Both are perfectly defensible positions and I don’t see anything inconsistent about holding both opinions. What I find ironic, though, is that if pot ever were legalized, who is it that the would-be legalizers think would start manufacturing pot? Who has little to lose PR wise by manufacturing a newly legal drug? Who needs to diversify to compensate for their customers dwindling opportunities to use their product.
My only question is if anyone except the tobacco companies would start manufacturing pot on any significant sale. I bet that they’d drive a whole lot of homegrowing heroes out of business.
Though I favor legalization, it’s hard not to appreciate the unassailable logic of Udolpho:
I used to be in favor of legalizing marijuana, but the persistent stupidity of marijuana zealots has beaten that position out of me, and now I am against legalization just to spite them. Experience shows that even occasional marijuana smokers are not terribly bright, and it is my belief that stupid people need to suffer. Taking away their pharmaceutical pacifiers is a good start.
Most curiously, most pot smokers that I knew had been pretty worthless until I got to Deseret, where they were much more interesting. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but my coworker Simon was convinced that there were as many pot-smokers as drinkers. Why? Because once you’re breaking the Mormon rules, you may as well go for the gold.
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