OF ALL TYRANNIES

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of it’s victims may be the most oppressive… those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C.S. Lewis

I am cigar smoker, fan, and enthusiast. I enjoy cigar smoking so much that seven years ago myself along with nine other cigar smoking enthusiasts formed the Lehigh Valley Cigar Club. Our official motto is “To Promote And Protect The Enjoyment of Cigars In The Lehigh Valley Area”. We now have over two hundred members. Since then climate has changed dramatically.

On June 13, 2008, Governor Edward Rendell signed into law, The Clean Indoor Air Act, Act 27 of 2008. With some exceptions, such as a private residence (except those licensed as a child care facility), a private social function where the site involved is under the control of the sponsor (except where the site is owned, leased, or operated by a state or local government agency) and a wholesale or retail tobacco shop, the legislation prohibiting smoking in 95% of public places or workplaces.

Around the same time, Governor Rendell proposed a new tax as part of his 2009 budget plan, including the imposition of a 36¢ per ounce tax on loose tobacco and for every ten cigars. The proposed “sin tax” was overwhelmingly defeated by the state legislature.

On January 23, 2015, House Bill 202 was introduced and proposed to extend the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act to include a ban on smoking in “drinking establishments” in the state of Pennsylvania.

Governor Tom Wolfe also proposed, as part of his 2015 state budget, that cigars be taxed at 40% of the wholesale value. Governor Wolf’s proposed tax on cigars will drive the cigar industry out of Pennsylvania, which aside from Florida is the only state that does not tax cigars. As a result, Pennsylvania is home to four of the eight largest cigar distributors in the United States which provide thousands of jobs to Pennsylvania residents. A cigar tax that onerous could cost thousands of Pennsylvania residents jobs as their employers would likely move to Florida.

Proponents of the tax argue the tax will generate revenue while health advocates argue that it will reduce the number of smokers.  On its face, the two goals would seem to be at odds with each other as reducing the number of cigar smokers reduces the effectiveness of the proposed tax as a revenue generator.  However, the tax will have a minimal impact on the amount of smokers as those who choose to exercise their right to smoke will continued to do so but at a higher cost.  It is insulting to suggest that the proposed cigar tax is motivated by a higher good. The argument that tax will reduce cigar smoking is nothing more than a pretext to justify the tax. It’s just another way of saying we are taxing you for your own good.

“Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman – or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.” –  George Burns

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson made his famous statement of a peoples’ inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Historians have argued that Thomas Jefferson took the phrase from John Locke who used the phrase in his book “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”. Locke believed that the pursuit of happiness is the foundation of liberty as it involves the freedom to make decisions that lead to true happiness, not necessarily decisions that give us immediate gratification, but true long term happiness.

The pursuit of happiness is the freedom to choose how one lives so long as it does not interfere with right of others to pursue happiness.  The legislature may not interfere with my right to smoke a cigar by a tax to generate revenue.  As a cigar smoker, my individual pursuit of happiness includes the right to choose to smoke cigars.

“If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go.” – Mark Twain

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