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August  2014
Vol. 24  No. 1

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Confession of a Former Closet Smoker

It wasn’t so long ago that I would casually smoke one cigarette in the evenings after work to unwind--just one--every few days. The fact was, I didn’t consider myself to be a “true” smoker since it would take me over a month to finish a pack of cigarettes in the privacy of my balcony, but to non-smokers who knew my secret...I was a closet smoker.

I suppose I was somewhat embarrassed that I smoked from time to time because I knew better. I knew the risks, the addictive possibility, and the long term side effects. We all know--we see the symptoms--the coughing and hacking, the stained teeth and fingers; the dry, wrinkled skin. We know the commercials, we notice the oxygen tanks, we read the stories about premature babies, children with asthma and lung cancer. As consumers, we are approached by anti-tobacco campaigns, but that doesn’t seem to be working. With Proposition 29 on the upcoming June Ballot, tobacco consumers may see their dollars go up in smoke with an additional tax of $1 per pack.

Today, thankfully, I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore. If I were still secretly puffing, that certainly would come to a screeching halt the day it would cost me almost $10 for a pack. Ten bucks doesn’t go very far these days, but I would rather get 2.5 gallons of gas to drive to the beach. Unfortunately, for the many who actually enjoy smoking, and who are hooked on nicotine, they will pay the price regardless of the additional tax because they simply can’t help themselves--no matter what the price. Sure consumers may end up buying a cheaper brand or purchase by the carton, but big tobacco will still get their money--one way or another.

If Proposition 29 passes in the June election, it is estimated that nearly $600 million a year will go to cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema and other smoking related research, while $179 million per year will be invested into tobacco control efforts. Essentially, the consumers will be funding the programs which may eventually end up saving their own lives in the future.

So what’s the big stink over this proposition anyway? Obviously tobacco companies and any businesses that sell and support tobacco products are against it. They will lose customers like me, the closet smoker in between. Who cares if the revenue earned from Prop 29 goes out of California anyway? The Proposition doesn’t promise to create Jobs in California—that’s not the intent. If you don’t like where the extra money is going then choose not to purchase tobacco products, and Prop 29 has worked. It’s as simple as that.

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