Smoking isn't one of my many vices. But that doesn't mean I have something against those who've chosen that method of killing themselves. It's not like their addiction makes them bad people.
In fact, some of them are very nice. Stinky, nicotine-stained, and sporting burn marks on their clothes and speckles of phlegm on their prematurely wrinkled cheeks and chins — but otherwise, nice. If you asked, they'd probably give you their last butt.
If you do, I'd advise not standing too close, particularly when they're hacking out small, bloody pieces of their lungs.
And that's not the only thing they cough up. To buy a pack of cigarettes, a Maine smoker pays two bucks in state tax. If anti-tobacco advocates have their way, that amount would be increased to $3.50.
I make a hefty contribution to the state's general fund every time I pour a drink down my digestive tract, but that amount seems like nothing when compared to the lien imposed on those who get their kicks by fumigating their lungs. If I ever end up on welfare, I'll have the state's smoking population to thank for covering the costs of my food stamps, housing, and booze money.
Except, there's no chance that tobacco-tax increase will become law.
"It's not going anywhere," Republican state Representative Gary Knight of Livermore Falls, co-chair of the Taxation Committee, told the Capitol News Service last week. "No tax increases are going to pass this committee or this Legislature."
Even if they did, GOP Governor Paul LePage promised during his campaign not to raise any taxes or fees under any circumstances, and his press secretary recently reiterated that pledge.
"He would veto that if it came across his desk," Adrienne Bennett told Capitol News. "The governor does not support increased fees or taxes."
Unless it's a tax on health insurance.
That's right, smokers, if you were thinking of using the money you'll be saving because the cigarette tax isn't going up to purchase policies to cover the medical bills you'll be incurring when they start excavating tumors from your major bodily organs, think again. You'll be needing that cash to cover the new tax on insurance policies.
Under the Republican health-reform plan, everyone in the state who has insurance will be forced to pay up to $6 per month to cover the expected shortfalls in the new high-risk pool that will provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, such as diseases caused by smoking. Some experts predict that charge will be insufficient to sop up all the red ink. (That is red ink, right? The Marlboro Man didn't cough all over the ledger page, did he?) That means that this new tax will have to be increased in less time than it takes cancer to metastasize.
If this nonsense seems familiar, it could be because the questionable and seemingly inadequate funding mechanism for the GOP health plan is a lot like the questionable and definitely inadequate funding mechanism that currently supports the Democrats' soon-to-be-extinct Dirigo Health program. The only real difference is the Dems never promised they wouldn't increase taxes and fees. In fact, a lot of them promised they would. Which is why some people vote for donkey-party candidates. They prefer to be ripped off by thieves who tell them right up front they're going to be robbed.