Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/15/sternresponse2/
Readers pour water on pro-smoke lobby
'Also, you are dumb'
Stern response Our newest columnist, Otto Z. Stern, seems to be on a personal mission, almost a crusade, to tackle the subjects the rest of us would rather he didn't.
After taking some pot-shots at the back of the departing ex-boss of HP, he decided that a thinly disguised fan letter to the heads of the tobacco industry would be the next order of business. Perhaps he is a formula one car in need of sponsorship, or a political party in need of electing. Who can tell?
As ever, the Z man has declined to answer his own email. He says it isn't necessary to debate his articles, as he is so transparently right.
Still, not everyone out there agrees with him, and it is our pleasure to give you a forum in which to voice your thoughts.
Let's hear from his fans first:
It's not just cigarettes, there's sales tax on almost everything. I'm not a smoker but I sure would like everything to suddenly be much cheaper. I'm sure your auntie would have been better off with no sales tax on other stuff as well.
While we're at it, there's this thing called "income tax". Together we can fight them both!
I am very anti-smoking but my elderly father is the same as your Aunt these people pre and post war had no knowledge of the dangers of smoking and now they are penalized both socially and financially for their unfortunate habit it is wrong.
Well done for bringing this to the world's attention.
Now, we'll move on to the less-than-impressed reader base:
What a load of crock. The thievery of the state aside, even somehow overlooking the sickeningly poor age verification to keep tobacco out of the hands of children, even then there's still the simple fact that payment could be made by money order if someone really cared, so there's no one to blame for the failure of online smoke shops but the consumers. And in fact, it's the underage consumers buying their smokes online and the cheapskates trying to get out of paying taxes that are to blame for the government's involvement. So really, at all levels you only have yourselves to blame.
I agree that, unless the law said that online cigarette purchases being delivered to NY had to be taxed, back taxes should not be collected. I'll fight for that.
Also, you are dumb.
Cigarette taxes cover only part of the medical expenses the government loses to smokers. Also, part of the reason smokers have to collect money for medical expenses from the government is they spend all their money on cigarettes! Cig taxes discourage smoking, prevent non-smokers from paying smokers' bills and allow our government to do something useful with other tax money. They're good for everyone.
I am glad that Aunt Margaret died.
Every person with common sense will tell you that cigarettes are bad for your health. In fact, EVERY cigarette pack has a warning about the negative effects of cigarettes. Did Aunt Margaret have sub-intelligence? I know so, as NO one with common sense will smoke a cigarette.
Why should the United States allow it's citizens to thwart the future of our country by allowing people to smoke cigarettes?
It is human nature to survive.
For this one reason alone allowing cigarette sales over the internet should be considered MURDER. Anyone who sells cigarettes KILL their customers WILLINGLY.
Yup. Cogent, well argued...
"Smokers don't like being told what to do, particularly by people who don't understand why they smoke and dismiss smokers as mere idiots."
How come nobody fu*king remembers this ever, ever?
Come on, defending smoking and a smoker's right to avoid tax is not really reasonable is it? What you are really defending is the "right" of multinational tobacco companies to make huge profits out of the ill-health of, typically, the poorest people in the developed world and - increasingly - those in the developing world (unregulated markets ripe for exploitation, as the might describe them).
The tobacco companies love these stories. It keeps the myth alive that smokers are "freedom fighters" defending themselves against nanny states and PC loony lefties who simply want to spoil their fun. The fact is that these companies have *intentionally* caused more harm, death and misery than any Fed pen-pusher ever has, or will!
Why don't you ask yourself why your Aunt smoked? How much of her (i.e. the user) money and life went towards keeping the heads of "big tobacco" (i.e. the pushers) in the luxury they have become use to? Why do so many people who are rational human beings in other aspects of the lives protest their right to smoke in the light of all the damage it does to them and the people around them?
Of course, the smoker (like any addict) will say that they get great pleasure out of their habit and they're hurting nobody but themselves, but the reality is that tobacco is a heavily marketed highly addictive substance that kills for profit.
Tobacco pushers might hide behind desks and wear grey suits rather than sportswear and bling (like their "illegal" narcotic-selling chums), and the Fed tax officials might be an easy target when looking to vent your anger, but can I suggest that you consider the role of the tobacco companies in keeping your Aunt, and other "financially decrepit" and unemployed people, in their poor and unhealthy condition.
You cannot honestly believe that what your Aunt was doing was anything other than breaking the law? Surely tax evasion is a crime in the states, I recently heard that in China tax evasion is punishable by the death penalty, perhaps your aunt got what was coming to her?
I also believe that it wasn't the letter that killed her (I haven't heard of anyone dying from a papercut yet anyway), it was probably the cigarettes...
A Fed Up Non Smoker
It is not only smokes that states are trying to grab taxes on.
The assorted US states now have tax treaties with each other that let them tell other states who received goods from a shipper an any state. The state collects sales taxes and a few years back implemented a computer data base standard.
So when they audit you for sales taxes you must prove what you sold and where you shipped it and they want the tax on shipments within the state.
They also want all the details of untaxed out of state sales....which they then proceed to give to each state they have a treaty with. Those states go to get this taxes, calling them 'use taxes'.
All the states have huge departments devoted to this form of tax collecting from good shipped into their state from other states. Tobacco and booze are highest on the list, since they have a far higher taxation rate. Next is high value items, diamond rings etc.
Isn't it sad that tobacco junkies go to such lengths to defend their heinous practices. If you were a real man you'd give up. It's alright if you want to kill yourself, but despite all the evidence, smokers still pretend they don't harm anyone else. And kids still get hooked because Robin Hood stories like this make smoking look sexy, brave and bold, rather than just being an addicts refuge :(
I have just finished reading your article, and I have to admit that your point seems somewhat muddled by controversy.
As I read along I get the impression that you're mourning the loss of your departed aunt but to my disappointment your article sounds more like a smokers rights protest than a plea to cope with unfair government tax practices.
It would seem like you're crusading to encourage the propagation of tobacco instead of dealing with the fact that your aunt was trapped by a dependency which most likely dealt its share of blows in her lifetime. Whatever the case may be, I can't see how your column can bring much good to people if the body of the message reads like a tobacco freedom document.
Tobacco distribution can do no good under any circumstances. if you want to call on human rights to argue a point, wouldn't it be wise to demonstrate reasoning on the account that freedom does not constitute self inflicted harm or the harming of others who surround us?
While I'm certain the agencies that publish your story are ultimately seeking readership it continues to raise question on our social responsibilities when brought up against profit margins.
I can't help but question why you did not mention your determination to encourage your aunt to stop smoking, you seem quite capable of raising points to millions of readers regarding your feelings of unfair taxes, yet there is no mention of this tenacity used to protect your dearly loved aunt when she was still living.
It is very sad that the relationship between you and your aunt has dissolved under such circumstances. life is short when you look back at it, and with this in mind we should make use of our abilities to protect one another from the elements along the way.
Instead of complaining about the costs and tax implications of tobacco, why don't you put your hard earned emotions towards the eventual elimination of toxins such as tobacco in our society.
In the future if your looking for an angle to attack the governments gripe on the poor, you should consider some of the healthier approaches, it might cast a more positive image on your case and produce more desirable results.
It looks like Mr. Stern (for that is how he likes to be known) will be back on a fortnightly basis from now on. Keep an eye out for him. If you are feeling thick skinned, have a read, but most importantly, tell us what you think when you have. ®