Enough, already

To the editor:

Usually the Friday “Thumbs up/Thumbs Down” Short Takes are non-controversial. This past week’s “Smokes going up?” (Marshall Independent, Jan. 25, 2013), is wrong-headed.

Cigarettes are still a legal product and while they are a health risk to the user and perhaps those around them, they pale in comparison to the toxicity of automobile and diesel exhaust.

The average new model automobile adds nearly 10 tons of CO2, carbon monoxide and many other toxins into the atmosphere. Older models and less energy efficient cars add even more. For the average tobacco user to match the amount of undesirable gases to the atmosphere, he or she would have to smoke about 500 cigarettes per day. With smoking bans almost everywhere except private homes, cars and outdoors, the effects on society by tobacco has been reduced. Raising the price of a package by another $.94 is simply unfair.

I have two alternative solutions to raising revenues to the state of Minnesota. Add the $.94 tax to gasoline and people will start walking more, driving less, combining shopping into fewer trips and conserving fuel. Those who commute great distances to work will find people with similar destinations or use mass transit. The air will be less toxic and the U.S. will become closer to complete energy independence.

Almost everyone would like to see government spend less. Here’s a “two-fer.” Legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use, add the proposed cigarette tax and perhaps additional taxes to marijuana. Legalized marijuana would reduce the criminal elements that currently deal with drugs, reducing crime and the need to imprison those dealers, saving around $30,000 per inmate on an annual basis. That amount of savings could provide a long term budget surplus, ending the annual ritual of accounting tricks, delayed payments to school districts and local government outside the metropolitan area and lessen the proposed tax-rate increases on both income and consumption.

Those who choose to smoke do so with the full knowledge of the potential side effects to their health; many might be enticed into quitting with the added costs, and perhaps, smoking by those under age might be reduced. History has demonstrated that teen-agers like to try things that may not be in their best interest, and after a very short trial most will quit those activities. Part of that is rebellion against authority, like speeding and alcohol consumption.

What is truly needed is a wide-spread comprehensive approach to paying for government, with protection for individual rights like tobacco usage, recreational marijuana usage, and other over-steps by government at all levels.

Dennis J. Larson