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Wisconsin’s smoking ban: Bad for nonsmokers

By F. J. Tamel

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There are Medical Risks to Smoking

There is no doubt that smoking affects people’s health adversely. I conquered my three-pack-a- day cigarette habit over thirty years ago, long before the cost of a pack of cigs reached seventy-five cents. Quitting was hard. I went through dozens of false starts before I was finally smoke-free. If anyone cared for my opinion, I’d tell them that it’s far better to quit because you want to, rather than quitting because you have to. I’d tell them that I personally know people with emphysema who breathe from oxygen tanks but are so addicted that they cannot last more than an hour without lighting up. Yes, smoking is a terrible habit that can lead to premature death from any number of maladies from heart disease to lung cancer. According the University of Wisconsin Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Program, an estimated 7,215 people die annually in Wisconsin from illnesses directly related to smoking.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys the smell of cigarette smoke wafting across their table in a good restaurant. Granted, there are some smokers who are so addicted to tobacco that they smoke while eating. But most would agree that a well ventilated non-smoking area is a boon for any eating establishment. A few weeks ago my wife and I entered a restaurant where the no smoking area was filled. So we drove to a different restaurant that had a smoke-free environment.

All that said; it is a bad idea for the State of Wisconsin to pass a smoking ban.

Taxing Smokers Brings in Revenue

The State of Wisconsin squeezes $294 million in revenue each year with one of the highest tobacco taxes in America. Originally those funds were supposed to be earmarked to help reduce the cost of Wisconsin healthcare, with a portion set aside to fund an antismoking marketing campaign. But, as is the norm for Wisconsin politics, the promise of a significant reduction in healthcare costs was merely a ruse. Like gasoline taxes, which were supposed to be earmarked for road repair, but weren’t, tobacco tax revenue was put into the general fund to address Wisconsin budget shortfalls instead of reducing healthcare costs.

It has been proven that in all areas of human behavior, when the costs associated with participating in a given activity go up, the number of people who engage in that activity decreases. For example, when tax increases and supply and demand issues raised gas prices over $4.00 per gallon, the truck and SUV market in America dried up. But when gas prices plummeted late in 2008, trucks and SUVs began selling again and auto dealers’ lots were full of hybrids that nobody would buy.

Punitive Taxes on Smokers will Shrink the Tax Base

The same is true for cigarette smoking. Increasing cigarette taxes along with anti-smoking legislation will cause many Wisconsinites to stop smoking. In addition a Wisconsin Smoking ban along with the punitive taxes will essentially wipe out the smoking population, replacing them with non-smokers If the state could force everyone in Wisconsin to quit the habit, we would have a $294 million hole in the revenue bucket. That hole will have to be filled with something. How about a fast food tax, which is already being considered? A beer tax? It’s coming. After all, fast food and alcohol are almost as bad for people as smoking. But far more people will be affected by those taxes than the taxes on tobacco.

In addressing the issues associated with rising healthcare costs, smoking is a boon. It’s already been stated that over 7,200 people die in Wisconsin each year from smoking related illnesses. That represents 7,200 people who won’t be using costly health services after they succumb. Let’s assume, for the sake of illustration, that all 7,200 of those people could live an average of twenty years longer if they hadn’t begun smoking. Dying people consume far fewer medical services than the people who outlive them. As people grow older, the costs of healthcare and drugs increase. After age 65, Americans qualify for Medicare, a nearly bankrupt entitlement which is buckling under the weight of baby-boomers who are entering their retirement years. Each smoking related death provides a few more breaths for Medicare before it finally dies, drained entirely of the funds that are necessary to keep it going.

Final Thoughts on Wisconsin's Smoking Ban

When one considers rising healthcare costs, the increased burden on Medicare, and declining tax revenues, it’s easy to see that those who succumb prematurely from smoking are doing those of us who don’t smoke a favor. But most of all, it is not the responsibility of state or federal government to control the life styles of its citizens by enforcing a Wisconsin smoking ban.

 

Comments (7)
  • Diane  - So What are you proposing?

    I'm a non-smoker and I personally think that people that smoke should be required to smoke INSIDE their own homes and cars that are required by law to have smoke eating filters. If there are children present they should be charged with abuse if they are exposed.

    As it is now, people go outside because they don't even want the stench in their own home, so it drifts into mine and others homes and apartments.

    I'm highly allergic to it and I get sick. I'm not alone in this.

    They should be held responsible for medical bills incurred upon others because of their addiction. And, smokers should pay for their own medical that are related to smoking.

    Sound harsh? Not to me.

    I'm tired of suffering, getting migraines, full body aches, and not being able to function or go many places. I often have to hold my breath while sitting at a stop light as I have no place to escape. I hate to have to walk past the smokers outside stores just to go grocery shopping.

    I can smell that stink when a smoker is in a car almost half a mile up the highway.

    People make stupid mistakes and accidents happen...that's life.

    People that are smart enough to never start smoking shouldn't have to foot the bill for their stupidity.

    Smoking isn't an accident and there are so many Smoking Cessation Programs out there, there is no excuse.

  • F. J. Tamel

    I appreciate your position. However the thrust of the article is that freedom is lost everything government passes new legislation without consideration of the consequences. Perhaps you enjoy eating at McDonald's. But fast food is unhealthy, so why chouldn';t the government tax fast food at the rate that they tax tobacco? After all obese people are just as responsible for overloading the healthcare system as smokers. How about alcohol? More people die from alcohol than any other substance, and everyone is at risk because people drink. Thdre are any number oflifestyle that may be objectionable, so why not tax all of them into oblivion? We shouldn't allow that to happen because the quality of all our lives will suffer.

  • Aaron Rodriguez  - Increased Taxation

    Diane,

    I'm sympathetic to your point of view. I think the author was suggesting that if we ban smoking, then prepare yourself for increased taxation in order to fill the budget hole that the cigarette tax currently fills.

  • Diane  - I understand

    size=medium]The difference between someone eating at McDonalds or some other place that isn't healthy is they are not messing up the AIR that I HAVE to BREATHE. :s
    Honestly I hate the government getting involved in most cases. I'm on Disability and I see how too many disabled vets are treated and the elderly. I've worked with them.
    To think this government could put together a proper health care system is a joke.
    I have what they consider health care. I choose at one point to be homeless rather than be stuck in "Assisted Living" where I'd have to eat the crap that makes me sicker and as soon as I refused to take the meds that make me sicker they send in the Staff Psych.
    As the saying goes, "Been there, done that." I also have HUNDREDS of virtual T-Shirts from "Being there".
    For over 3 years now, I've been paying "out of pocket" actually out of my HUGE disability check for the health care that is getting me back on my feet so I have hope for a life in the future. What's left isn't enough to keep a roof over my head for the most part but it never shows.
    The other thing long as I'm "venting"...I'm on disability because I have Fibromyalgia (and most of what goes with it) and most of it was caused by meds they pumped me full of after being hit by a truck in 91.
    I have tried since 1993 to work with Vocational Rehab to get back on my feet and it's always some excuse as to why I can't get help. The prevailing one now is I can't go to school unless my housing is stable. I have to work PT under the table if I'm able to keep stable housing. If I'm working I have no energy to go to school and I OBVIOUSLY can't tell them I'm working! :woohoo:

    Out here in Calif "Rehab" is big business. There are rehab/halfway houses all over.
    I've been told all the way from Fla, Wis AZ and here in CA ... I DON'T QUALIFY FOR HELP because I'm NOT an alcoholic, drug addict, mentally ill, senior citizen or battered with children.

    I can't find anyone to take applications for HUD housing for over 5 years. Yet I know there are places out there.
    Here's how to bypass the application and 5-10 year waiting list (IF you can get on one).
    Check into a Psych ward, let them pump me full of anti-psychotic meds so I really would be NUTS ... then they will assign me a "Social Worker", find me housing and stick their noses up my arse and get paid well to do me the disservice. :whistle:
    I LITERALLY spent YEARS weaning MYSELF off medications that were causing serious medical problems. I'm NOT going back to that.
    Just ONE of the things I'm still dealing with are "Severe Chemical sensitivities" ... hence the attitude I have toward smoke.
    Does any of this make sense?
    I really do wish more people understood what it feels like to almost have to live in a bubble.

    End thought....It would be so much more cost effective to pay for what works and save the 4 sleep studies and THOUSANDS of dollars in Medications, ditch the IDIOTS that keep the chairs warm and do NOTHING to help but only answer phones and tell you there is no help of funding (where is the funding to pay those slobs?) :huh:

    Akkkkk I sometimes feel I'm gonna burst.
    Bottom Line....
    There is no money in people being healthy.

    I am thankful the "captcha" or "anti-spam code" is readable :woohoo: [/size][/color]
    And my sense of humor ;)

  • Anonymous  - Roads Less Taken

    Aside from the monetary apect; as well, the health aspect, I feel as if there is an issue of equal treatment of the American citizen. I smoke, and I'll agree to everything said on both sides. But I just don't agree with a government telling a private owner of a restaraunt; especially a bar, that they can not do certain things in their establishment. Baseline: I agree with giving respect to the non-smokers, but I very strongly disagree with the autority of our government being able to tell privately-owned, non-government buildings that they can't allow smoking. It's not even an issue of smoking, it can be anything. Pretty soon we won't be able to blow our nose, sneeze, or cough in public anymore(after all, these all are unattractive and spread sickness). Our government is a joke

  • Peter  - Logic is a wonderful thing...

    According to Diane's logic, her car should be banned because I am a non-driver and her car gives off emissions that give me migraines and full body aches. I too am tired of suffering. I often have to hold my breath as I walk past intersections and plume fuming SUVs on my way into the grocery store.

    I can smell that stink when a driver is in a car almost half a mile up the highway.

    People make stupid mistakes and accidents happen...that's life.

    People that are smart enough to never start driving shouldn't have to foot the bill for their stupidity.

    Driving isn't an accident and there are so many Driving Cessation Programs out there, there is no excuse.

  • Anonymous  - fast food

    I cannot believe the comparison to fast food to alcohol or cigarettes.,I have been on and off cigarette addiction my whole life.If cigarettes where not so addictive, I really wouldn't feel so strongly against It.You just cant have one ,leads to the next. Calming ,no ,only to the addict that Is feinding for a fix.It's disgusting .I just pray that my children never take up the habit.I hope one day people realize that drinking and smoking go hand and hand to early death.I hope that the appearance socially of being more distinguished as a smoker Is revealed to a smelly addict that cigarettes makes you become. chunks , not speaking clearly ,yellow hands fingers and mouth.Then the surprise when you have cancer and die a horrible death.No one can save you but yourself.Be strong and Quit!!!!!

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