Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pennsylvania Cigarette Tax (continued - Part 3)

Killing "Pennsylvanians" One Pack at a Time; by Craig Friebolin
I got a cut-and-paste response from the Governor’s Office today and you can see my response below:

"Thank you for your recent correspondence about the 10-cent per pack cigarette tax increase that I included in my budget proposal for the coming year. As you know, Pennsylvania and all other states are feeling the impact of the national recession, and 2009-10 budget represents a momentous challenge to ensure fiscal discipline while making critical invests that grow our economy and protect Pennsylvanians who need help during this economic storm.

The federal government and every state in the U.S. impose some sort of tax on cigarettes,
usually for two reasons. First, cigarette taxes help raise the price of the product, which discourages consumption, especially by kids. Second, cigarette taxes are enacted to fund public programs for the common good, and often the programs that benefit from cigarette tax revenue are directly related to health care initiatives. Here in Pennsylvania, the largest portion of our budget goes toward funding health care, and the increased cigarette tax will help us meet those obligations.

Pennsylvania’s current cigarette tax places it in the middle of all states and Washington, DC with the 21st highest cigarette tax, and less than neighboring states New Jersey, Maryland and New York. Raising the tax rate by 10 cents will increase Pennsylvania’s ranking only marginally, to 19th place.

Inexplicably, Pennsylvania is also the only state in America that does not tax smokeless tobacco – chewing tobacco, cigars and cigarillos. I have proposed taxing those products as a fair, common-sense way to generate needed revenue.

The cigarette tax was first enacted in Pennsylvania in 1935 and it supplies a substantial source of funding for public services provided by the commonwealth. The tax rate has increased nine times over the past 74 years to provide sufficient funding to the General Fund and programs such as a health insurance plan benefiting Pennsylvania children, a fund that helps reduce medical malpractice costs for healthcare providers and a farmland preservation effort.

The proposed cigarette tax increase – the first in five years – and the first ever tax on smokeless tobacco will benefit Pennsylvania by further reducing tobacco use and funding important programs on which many residents rely.

In the long run, reductions in tobacco use will provide public health benefits that will reduce the cost of health care in the public and private sectors, reduce sick leave usage and lengthen the life spans of many Pennsylvania children and adults.

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion on this issue."

My Responce:
What programs *directly* related to smoking does the $600,000,000+ annual tax revenue generated by the *direct* taxing of cigarettes support? You have a 75% failure rate on the only one I could find and it doesn't cost NEARLY $600,000,000+ a year to run.

My point is ... Use tax money from the general population to support programs for the general population. Do not single out one group (smokers) to fund projects that are not specifically related to that group (smokers).

So help me god if you tell me the money goes to "Healthcare" assuming that broad definition will be satisfactory; you will have severely insulted my intelligence. Your current logic is like saying you're going to tax black people just for being black; give the money to the Klu Klux Clan; then say the tax is used to support "Diversity Programs". You have no REAL programs in place to reduce the amount of smokers in PA and you use smokers as a piggybank to fund projects that sound vaguely related but aren't related AT ALL.

So here's the deal... I propose you fund a Nicotine Replacement program that subsidizes the cost of Nicotine Patches, etc. and pass a law that requires any Cigarette/Tobacco retailer to carry, stock and prominently display the low-cost subsidized Nicotine Replacement items. Because your current "Give us your money and we'll try to fix you AFTER you get sick if there's any money left over" model is stupid!

Or am I missing a good answer to the question: "What programs *directly* related to smoking does the $600,000,000+ annual tax revenue generated by the *direct* taxing of cigarettes support?"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thank You for Calling PA Governor Ed Rendell's Office … Now Go F#*K Yourself

How Edward G. Rendell Personally Wastes Your Time; by Craig Friebolin

So I decide to call the Governor and show him the error of his ways with regard to the Pennsylvania Cigarette Tax (Governor Edward G. Rendell's Office: (717) 787-2500) A woman answers the phone with a bad attitude and a long-story-short I state my case to the woman and I’m told that “my comment will be passed on”. I follow up by asking “will someone be calling me back to discuss this further?” and I’m once again told “my comment will be passed on”. When the call is over I feel like I was just brushed off as being insignificant. I stew over it for a minute or two and get increasingly angry and decide to call back with the intent of insisting that I speak to someone. Another woman with a bad-attitude answers the phone, I state my case again, and again I’m told “my comment will be passed on”. And once again I ask “will someone be calling me back?” to which she replies “What do you mean?” …. Oooooh … now I’m just mad. I take a moment to explain the difficult question of “will someone be calling me back?” to the confused young woman with the chip on her shoulder and she tells me I need to put my comments in writing. “And THEN someone will contact me back?” I ask. I hear her sigh in frustration at my question and now I’m really getting irritated … “I don’t want to waste my time putting it in writing if it’s not going to go anywhere because I have other s*#t to do” once I said that she seemed almost excited to say “we don’t tolerate that kind of language” and she hung up on me because she’s not smart enough to answer simple questions and obviously not smart enough to know I’ll be calling right back … which I did … and the conversation continued like so; “Why did you hang up on me?!” … “Because we don’t tolora… ::click click click ring :::” and I realize I’m being transferred. A man answers the phone and I fumble through saying something to the effect of “Where am I? I think I was transferred but I’m not sure why … do you do something with the cigarette tax?” he says “I can help you” and for the third time now I state my case but this time emphasizing that I would like to speak to someone about the matter. The reasonable man gives me honest answers “It is the Governor’s policy that if it’s not in writing … ‘it never happened’”. I explain to the man that this is my third time calling and the first 2 women I spoke to told me my comment would be passed on. He responds with silence. “So what you’re telling me is those 2 phone calls were a complete waste of time” he responds in an empathetic tone, “It is the Governor’s policy that if it’s not in writing … ‘it never happened’”. I’m taking the hint so I too am now speaking in an empathetic but confused manor “Do you have a pen? Or a computer? Why not just write what I’m saying down?” he tells me “honestly … it’s what the Governor wants. He’s the chief and we’re just the little Indians”.

So here it is Eddy … all written down … it took about 7 hours to get all my facts straight and type this up for you … and now that I’m this invested I’m not letting it go. I didn’t get paid for this time and as I stated to your office earlier “I have other s**t to do” so hopefully your office will correct this common sense mistake and not make any more so I don’t have to put my life on hold to spell them out for you because you refuse to empower your staff with a God damn pen. Maybe you could gouge the smokers of Pennsylvania a bit more to donate some of its $613,000,000.00 in annual tax revenue to buy them computers?

Pennsylvania Cigarette Tax

Killing "Pennsylvanians" One Pack at a Time; by Craig Friebolin

I started smoking when I was 20 years old (the summer of 1991) and my first attempt to quit smoking was on my 30th birthday. I am 38 now with a pack-and-a-half-a-day habit. I consider myself rational and well disciplined but when it comes to smoking all of that goes out the window. (Do you think that’s because they are addictive?) I know the dangers of smoking and I know that nobody is putting a gun to my head and making me smoke. (But they’re addictive … did I mention they’re addictive?)

Obviously the state of Pennsylvania knows that cigarette smoke carries with it many serious health risks and that is why I can’t smoke in any public places anymore. They did this to protect “all of us” from the dangers of cigarette smoke. Admittedly I tend to just go outside and smoke every-so-often because I can only go so long without a cigarette because they’re addictive. (Did I mention the addictive thing?) Another thing they do every so often is tax the ever-loving-crap out of a pack of cigarettes to punish me for smoking … or at least that’s the logic I thought I heard somewhere. It was this thinking that infuriated me recently when the cigarette tax was raised again. I thought; “if the state is so concerned with my safety and getting me un-addicted to cigarettes why don’t they sponsor a program that sells nicotine patches at convenience stores for a tenth of the price of a pack of cigarettes rather than make me work harder to support a habit I don’t even want!?” A little while later I thought I would look into this idea and see if I could suggest it to someone but that is when I found out that the cigarette taxes are used to raise money for anti-smoking campaigns … oh ... wait … that’s not right. They use the money for legal aid to help those battling the tobacco industry … oh … wait ... that’s not right either. Apparently they just do it for the money. Then they give the money that only the smokers have to pay to non-smoking related projects.


“Cigarette tax revenue helps fund the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides quality health insurance for children of working families, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Fund for farmland preservation and the Health Care Provider Retention Account that helps reduce medical malpractice insurance costs.”

ARE YOU F*&%ING KIDDING ME!? Put a tax on Toys for CHIP, put a tax on Topsoil for farmers, and regulate the insurance industry! Don’t charge me extra for an addictive product that is killing me and then hang me out to dry!!!! WHAT THE F%$# IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!?

Part 2 :
So today I decided to make sure my information was correct and pulled up the current state budget and I found the only smoking related project is the 1-800-QUIT-NOW line that is run by the American Cancer Society. I gave them a call and after being asked for my name, address, age, race, sexual orientation, and a ton of other off topic questions they offered to send me some brochures (I suppose I’m supposed to smoke them?), receive a call from a ‘counselor’ on Monday June 15th (2 weeks from now and I’ll let you know how it goes) and they also let me know about the website which is pretty much cut-and-paste from the American Cancer Society website ( They also let me know that there is no “Nicotine Replacement Program” so don’t call them if you have the realistic expectation that they’ll send you some nicotine patches or anything like that. So now I had proof that hardly any of the extra $1.35 PER PACK TAX (Approximately $1,680,517.00 PER DAY TAXED IN PA) We are spending is going to help or prevent anything smoking related. (Apparently COMMON SENSE is void at State level)
So I decide to call the Governor and show him the error of his ways (Governor Edward G. Rendell's Office: (717) 787-2500) …