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.


Category: Market

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

7 Responses to 2,000 Cigarettes for $100 More

  1. Bob V says:

    PM *does* care about reselling because if they are shown to have not done anything to curb reselling, then the government can claim that they have been essentially selling cigarettes to minors by proxy. A 10 carton limit doesn’t prevent reselling, but it is at least one measure to curb it.
    —–
    Hmmm, stupid people should suffer? I will need to think more about that.

  2. Will Truman says:

    I thought about it being a pre-emptive move, but I’d be surprised if minors would buy enough to justify the purchase of so many to warrant such action. Maybe it’s one of those things where it’s only the perception that matters.

  3. Webmaster says:

    Will,

    The prohibition on buying a ton at once (unless you’re a registered seller like a gas station or something) is mostly a PR thing, but yes, the “justification” is that it is at least a partial way to stop them from being sold to minors (though as you calculated, it’s a pretty lousy method).

    As far as the pot lobby and questions on legalization, I’ve never managed to pin down a firm opinion. On the one hand, I find the distinction of pot vs tobacco to be pretty stupid. And I do think that the possible medical benefits of hemp, at least in some cases, outweigh certain risks.

    This is keeping in mind of course that decades ago, the main ingredient in many cough and painkiller medicines was cocaine extract, though considerably less potent obviously than the deliberate-overdose stuff seen today.

    Overall, my stance on legalization of pot is a nuanced one; I think that we ought to start with certain prescription-allowed programs for it, and go from there, and see if it can be managed.

    As for the “stupid people should suffer” part, I think there’s something to be said on the fact that today’s society is set up to breed more stupid than smart people, as shown by the birth rates of each.

  4. abel says:

    You’ll have to write about how pot smokers in Deseret were more interesting than pot smokers elsewhere.

  5. Spungen says:

    I read that Udolpho thing, too, and had to laugh. Unfortunately he probably has a point which becomes truer the older the person gets.

    I wonder why Deseret is better? Does it have a higher income and/or education level? Sorting through the stoners and other drug users I’ve known, their family income seemed to be the sole, and a huge, deciding factor in whether they became losers or not.

    I can think of some seriously flaky situations — like, this guy I was seeting smoked pot all the time during law review period and flunked the bar — that still turned out OK, and it was always a person from a well-off family background. The ones from uneducated, working-class families were the ones who suffered the penalties of damaged careers and social scorn.

    BTW, I was thinking about this when I read your “screening tips” yesterday. A lot of those accomplishments you mentioned — a developed talent, a degree, a relatively stable job history — are actually no big deal for guys from wealthier families, even if they’re screw-ups or lazy. So if the guy’s from a privileged situation his accomplishments should be discounted accordingly.

  6. trumwill says:

    It’s not an economic things. By most standards the people I knew in Deseret were pretty poor. You didn’t know me when I was writing dispatches from the area, but people (with college degrees) would just about line up around the building for a job that paid $10/hr. We had one person that was a thesis away from a Master’s Degree in computer science with recommendations from internships at NASA and the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory that eagerly took a job for $9/hr.

    But you make some interesting points about class and background. Whether a person was raised in a middle class (or above) household makes a great deal of difference. Some of that is because you get second chances a poorer person wouldn’t, but some of it as well has to do with the expectations with which they were raised.

    But even when it comes to people raised in well-off households, it’s still not very difficult to come up short. It’s not difficult to get through college (with the right upbringing and enough money to pay for it), but it’s still more difficult than dropping out. It’s at least something. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a college graduate is more worthwhile than someone that didn’t make it through, but I would still say that it’s an indicator.

    I don’t disagree, though, that someone that was given lemon-aid and all they had to do was add the sugar should not be given the same credit as someone that was only given water and was told to find the lemons and sugar. But if they were given all else and didn’t even add the sugar, generally speaking, that’s a huge warning sign. And even if someone was given a raw deal and didn’t overcome it, the fact remains that they didn’t overcome it and represents a potential problem.

    But most of what I was getting at comes down to a division between two kinds of people: a relatively complete person and a woefully incomplete person. Someone that hasn’t cultivated any interests, hasn’t made any notable achievements, hasn’t learned how to behave around other people, and so on need some serious self-improvement before they’ll be a suitable partner. That’s true of whatever background one comes from.

    Some of this (as is a lot of what I say) is a self-analysis. If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried harder to cultivate relationships by way of further cultivating my identity. Not to say I was some sort of cipher, but there were certainly times in my life where I had too little going for me personally and it made finding someone rather difficult. If I didn’t have the relative achievements that I did (having written, though not sold, three novels, having a marketable degree and a job history, and so on) winning Clancy over might have proved to be an insurmountable task. And rightfully so.

  7. Hit Coffee » Deseretian Toker Chic says:

    […] ed under: Coffeehouse — trumwill @ 1:04 pm

    Both Abel and Spungen express some curiosity about my previous comment that the pot-smokers that I knew in Mormon-dominated Deseret were gen […]

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