View Mobile Site

Newsom finds new way to stick it to cigarette smokers

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED May 24, 2009 2:20 a.m.
You’ve got to love sin taxes.

They allow politicians to make “bold moves” by cutting the weak politically from the herd of taxpayers and then slowly bleeding them to death for their sins.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has sharpened his hunting skills targeting weak victims to a high art.

Smokers - who the state can ill afford to have them kick the habit due to how much they are taxing them per pack – are in Newsom’s sights as well.

This time it is a proposed 33 cents a pack tax on smokes to offset the $44 million San Francisco spends annually on litter clean-up that Newsom has incorporated in that city’s proposed 2009-10 municipal budget. Newsom contends sweeping up cigarette butts off the streets accounts for $10.7 million of that tab.

Funny thing. It turns out a litter audit done by the city last summer indicated cigarettes accounted for just 10 percent of the small items cleaned up from the city’s streets.

The small litter list was topped by chewing gum that come in at 41 percent followed by glass shards at 23 percent.

So how can the mayor who wants to be governor justify taxing cigarettes and not chewing gum to help defray the cost of picking up litter in San Francisco? That’s easy. Newsom’s press handler said cigarettes were targeted because of their toxicity and the environmental damages smoking causes. But why not tax gum? The mayor’s handler said it was because gum is impossible to clean up.

So you understand it, the entire justification behind cost recovery to balance budgets is to make those responsible for incurring specific municipal expenses to pay for them. Those who chew and toss gum get a pass because the city can’t clean it up. Smokers, on the other hand, because they are the dregs of the earth in Politically Correct Land get nailed big time. Go figure.

How can they justify hitting smokers with a 33 percent per pack tax in a bid to recovery a quarter of the litter clean-up budget? They can’t. They know they can get away with it because cigarette smokers are the weak segment of the public so it is easy to prey on their pocketbooks.

You won’t find me defending smoking but if you don’t defend the rights of smokers to be treated fairly then the next victim of overzealous taxaholics could be you.

Newsom’s staff will tell you that the mayor is considering other taxes on the leading sources or litter. Why wait? It sounds likes 33 cents per pack tax on gum could be justified now.

That, however, would be political suicide. Gum chewers are way too numerous. That could anger a lot of voters. Better not do that.

Newsom claims he is worried about the environment. So how many animals does discarded gum kill a year as opposed to cigarette butts?

Perhaps instead of being motivated by the need to come up with money to run government maybe, just maybe, Newsom would like to do something to cut down on littering.

Why not disperse litter cops to enforce existing city laws against littering? if litter clean-up is a $44 million clean-up problem, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the offenders.

Put in place minimum fines of $1,000 with a minimum requirement of two 8 days of litter clean up detail as the cost for being caught. That may put a dent in littering. All increasing the cost of cigarettes does is bleeding smokers and in the process you might just snare a few who don’t discard their cigarette butts anywhere they feel like it.

Newsom might say all smokers toss cigarette butts. Well, there is a pretty good argument that the vast majority of gum chewers in public don’t wait until they see the nearest trash can to get rid of gum either.

Newsom is motivated by one thing and one thing only – keeping political fallout at a minimum while continuing to find new ways to tax.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...