Noose on tobacco draws a bit tighter

Smoking, chewing and sniffing snuff will get more expensive April 1, when the first tax increase signed by President Barack Obama goes into effect.
The federal tax rises from 39 cents to $1.01 Wednesday. Taxes on chewing tobacco, cigars and pipe tobacco will rise similarly.
Medical groups expect the higher prices to persuade many to quit or, at least, use fewer death-dealing tobacco products. They also believe the recession will prod those who need additional incentive.
Higher prices will help, although the number of American adults who smoke cigarettes seems stuck at 20 percent, despite the steadily rising cost. Smokers also shrug off the fact that tobacco kills an estimated 443,000 Americans each year.
With these stubborn facts reaffirmed, Congress is again considering legislation to empower the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. President Obama is expected to sign such a bill if it meets his specs.
FDA regulation almost certainly would result in a significant reduction in tobacco consumption. Meeting such requirements would increase prices further. It would also stigmatize use still more.
The last arrow in the government’s quiver is to treat tobacco as it does cocaine, opium and other addictive drugs and criminalize its production and sale. Surely, that day is drawing nearer.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.