particular attention to the new update several paragraphs below regarding the recent
election results of the seven state primaries as they relate to the number of voters
compared to the number of smokers. An interesting correlation indeed. Updated 2/3/04 - the
The fact that no matter how intricate and well planned our attempts at sane self regulation are, of everything from questionable business practices to overt criminal behavior, we still seem to be having little luck in devising strategies that work for more than a short specific time, or individual situation. Why is there no "Unified Field Theory" as posed (though not yet proven) by Einstein, but applied to the far less complex social sciences (science of society) as a whole? Why are so many humans content to let others control them, seldom to the benefit of anyone but the controllers (even though the controllees vastly outnumber the controllers)? Why can't we keep our relatively small planetary house clean and orderly, AND progressive? Is it possible that we are all still basically savages whose sole motivations are greed and domination over others. Are we too angry of a species, or have we gotten mad enough? An interesting point of view lies in the following passage regarding the human species.
"Filtered through the slushy fishbowls of their eyes, muffled by the imperfect receptors of their nerves, clouded by the static of their prejudices, the human dimly sees the universe. With meat-ego arrogance, they believe that what they notice through their clogged senses is the only reality. Humans represent a species which now engulfs the Earth in its numbers, from hot jungles to frozen wastelands. The ants have overrun the picnic and, having feasted on the leavings, now eat the table itself. Belching happily on their crumbling plateau, they toast one another for wisdom, restraint, and nobility."
The preceding pejorative is an excerpt from the novel by DA Smith, "Rendezvous", and is related to the reader from the point of view of a near perfect being, endowed with the "advantage" of machine intelligence. Though a work of fiction, this novel deals with the conflict that all of us face when it comes to solutions that address long term challenges. In the machine world, solutions tend to be fixed points which can become the basis for linear improvement of the overall design with little or no chance of regression. As each part is improved, however, the connected parts in line subsequently face the threat of over work. In other words, when within a machine, you strengthen one part, the other parts may not stand up well to the added stress imposed on them by the increased efficiency of the new part. In human terms and looking at civilization as the ultimate human mechanism, new parts are much harder to come by, and even when they are ultimately available, these innovations are lobbied against most stringently by the powers that be - those that most fear change. Our civilization would not exist as such, nor would we as a species ever have left the caves, were it not for machines and continual improvements to them. And improvements mean change. It would seem we have learned little from the elegant designs we humans imparted to the non-sentient tools we've created to ease our path and increase our power. While we have no problem installing a new and perhaps improved part to one of our machines, we have not learned yet how to incorporate truly new ideas quickly and efficiently into the mechanisms of society, even though these ideas are often obvious (to some) solutions that could actually cure existing problems rather than simply prolonging the negative deteriorations our "system" seems to suffer symptomatically.
The tables below are a study in the uniquely human ability for the rationalization of statistical analysis, which we as a "civilized" species too often use to make far reaching decisions. Those that published this table were attempting to show the current level of regulation (taxes) and the statistical use of cigarettes broken down by state, and then figured into a some kind of national average cause and effect relationship. Their agenda was obviously aimed at showing that the more taxes one imposes on tobacco, the less its use. Even a quick glance comparing the ranking of states as to how high their taxes are compared to their ranking, as to percentages of smokers, often shows quite the opposite. Further, the tables cover statistics from 2001 and 2002 so you can compare where states have raised taxes during that period and look at the resulting use, especially among young/underage smokers, who are routinely advertised as the true benefactors of higher revenue schemes. Rather than go into each state, one at a time, I leave it to you to do the comparisons. I'm not a cruel person, but spoon feeding people opinion and pseudo facts is one of the problems this piece deals with. It is what the controllers attempt to do. We desire the control of no human.
Obviously, one of the purposes of this publication is to encourage each of you to become more proactive in the battle against sanctions on increasingly moderate tobacco use. Though nearly the entire case against tobacco, and the subsequent legal issues, regulation, and revenue confiscation, has focused on the big cigarette companies, even moderate, hobbyist enthusiasts of tobacco are affected. Moreover, organizations involved in these battles against individual rights and responsibility have had their way, impeded only by the logic and good sense of SOME legislators and judges who recognize the, at times, very weak sources of information and distortions of many of the so called facts. These organizations are well funded (by your tax dollars in most cases) and their officers are very well compensated. There's is a massive industry that will attack anything with deep pockets regardless of the harm it may cause to innocent bystanders. They are terrorists in the true sense of the word, no different than the eco-terrorist who destroys the private property of companies they see as a threat to the environment, or the terrorist who takes innocent human life for no other reason than they have a different concept of Divinity. We welcome a debate on tobacco under the piercing glare of fact, not innuendo. However, this debate may never happen as so many are afraid to cross these extremely aggressive organizations. Their power MUST be limited by regulation and by litigation. They, and the so called facts they arm themselves with, must be exposed to the transparent light of truth. Let the chips then, fall where they may. All of us will be better for the knowing.
However, if the population of smokers does not become extremely active very soon, a great opportunity to alter or at least steady the course of personal human rights in vast areas yet unimaginable, may be lost, possibly for a very long time. Some of what they (these offenders of individual choice) proselytize, we actually agree with. We believe non-smokers should not be exposed to our smoke, if that be their choice. We also feel that children especially should be protected from ALL forms of pollution, both physical and intellectual, as they have less ability to voice and enforce their defenses. On the cover of this issue remains a scenario for determining the facts on tobacco use and, with minor variations, all other future issues that involve regulation of personal behavior that may have risk. Click here if you wish to review it. But for now . . .
There is a lot to digest in the tables below and thus make some kind of decision based on what you see. We can't do it all for you and you shouldn't want us to anyway. That would put us in the same category as those who create such statistical presumptions. You should look at all the data and decide the intrinsic meaning for yourself.. However, we will look at a few states as an example to get you started.
The recent seven state Democratic primaries, as well as the recent Oregon state referendum on taxes, gives us an interesting perspective, as an addition to what follows, regarding the voter's power to change just about anything they set their minds to. Let's take a look at three states that are a typical example of how this process may be used by tobacco users to regain control of a revenue and regulatory process gone insane. We'll start with the Oklahoma primary and simply throw some real numbers at you based on election results. There are approximately 1,099,000 registered Democrats in Oklahoma which is a state with a Democratic majority, but elects a lot of Republicans. That strange fact alone, we will let you make of what you will. Here's the interesting part. Of those nearly 1.1 million voters who as Democrats were eligible to vote in this primary, only 300,000 actually voted or about 27.3%. Now the state, according to the tables below, has about 737,000 adult smokers. The winner, Clark got only 30% of the vote that was cast or about 90,000 votes, Edwards had nearly the same amount with Kerry placing third with about 81,000. The point is even if you total the top three candidates, the number of votes cast for them is only about 260,000. Now think about it. With 737,000 smokers in the state, it is obvious that a concerted effort to vote for someone who was much more supportive of those who are being robbed by taxation because they smoke, could win any election for any candidate they chose. The numbers are staggering when you look at the power smokers have to influence their own destiny, if only they can be organized to vote in a block.
The second example is the Arizona primary, with 788,000 eligible Democratic voters, only 220,000 actually voted. In both cases (OK and AZ), only about 27% of those eligible to vote in the primary actually showed up to do so. There are 809,000 smokers in this mostly Republican state. Again a voting block of smokers alone could elect any candidate for any local, state or federal office. Now we are not suggesting that this be the only criteria for voting for politicians. However, we think the qualifications of most elected leaders are no better overall than most citizens. In most cases, some of the dumbest sounding people I have ever been exposed to, are politicians. I watch CSPAN a lot and am constantly amazed at the lack of knowledge about a wide range of issues that our elected officials exhibit.
The fact is, even career politicians glean most of their knowledge about issues as diverse as health care, social security, the war on terror, education, budget deficits and international affairs, including trade, from their staff anyway. Staffers are professional coaches, basically, who remain in their consultant-like positions throughout changing administrations and officials. They would always be there to help in getting a newly elected Representative or Senator up to speed with information that person needed on affairs that perhaps were not the freshman politician's forte to start with. That's what they do and current politicians in office are no less dependent on these staff resources than would be a new face. Now many people simply don't want the hassle of a political candidacy, or are not attractive/charismatic enough, have neither the money, nor the oratory skills to make a bid for office. However, it only takes one in every precinct (with your support) who both has a committedly reasonable attitude about tobacco taxation and regulation, and has those skills mentioned above to make a 180 degree difference when it comes to unfair and inefficient tobacco regulation. The are many in every state, at all levels, who could well fit the requirements and who certainly are bright and articulate enough to represent you at all levels of government. This is how the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) was passed and, in the same way later repealed. Folks whose beliefs were representative of their electors were sought out and supported. It can be done.
Finally, for this update, let me share with you details of a local vote on a referendum that was put before the voters of Oregon this week. It was basically a ballot measure to increase our income tax to help the state deal with the typical budgetary crisis that most states are experiencing today. The voters, 58% to 42%, voted this measure down, but that is not the point, although it is interesting to note that few tax increase measures pass when they are put to a vote of the taxpayer. What is more interesting here is that Oregon makes it easy to vote. It is all done by mail. You don't have to go anywhere. You only need provide a minimal postage fee (thirty seven cents). The state mails you a ballot and you send it back in, or you can drop it off at a ballot box on election day if you don't want to mail it. Even with this mind numbing simplicity on a measure that would directly and immediately affect every wage earner in the state, only 53% actually sent in their ballots. An interesting set of numbers appears here as does the two percentages noted above in the state primaries where almost EXACTLY the same percentage of registered voters actually voted. Though the response of the voters of Oregon was nearly twice the 27% of the OK and AZ primaries, it is interesting to note that the number of smokers in Oregon is precisely 53% of those that voted. This doesn't mean 53% of Oregonians are smokers. It simply means that 986,000 folks voted out of a possible 1.8 million AND that, according to the tables below 528,000 people here smoke. So the ratio of voters eligible to vote and those that actually voted as well as ratio of the total number of smokers in the state to the number of people who actually voted were both 53%. The final kicker in this proposed income tax hike is that the group of legislators and special interest groups that put it together threw in a 10 cent per pack cigarette tax hike for good measure. It is interesting to note that in the voter pamphlet each registered voter receives that explain the proposed measure, the "in favor of" section where supporters of the Bill have the opportunity to give their reasons for support, dealt, to a very disproportionate degree, with this cigarette tax increase as the main reason for supporting this bill. Groups like the American Cancer Society, Lung Association and several other such organizations who are not supposed to be involved in the legislative process due to their non-profit status were all over the ballot info booklet. The measure was voted down, but it was obvious that this part was thrown in as a rider to garner support from more people, as our legislators seem to think that the mere mention of a cigarette tax will cause a bill to pass. I guess they were wrong in this case, but often this ploy works.
I'm not sure what can be made of the percentage-based coincidence of 53%, but it is interesting, especially if you like to play games with numbers like the statisticians do concerning smoking and health. More of that follows, but what is pertinent here is that, once again, adult, voting age smokers, as a voting block, could have passed or killed this bill at their whim. People who use tobacco have an incredible amount of power if motivated into becoming a voting block. Everyone who smokes HAS to be and frankly, IS seriously upset at the level of taxation on tobacco and the ultimate waste of that revenue on projects that have nothing to do with smoking. As you read what follows, keep this in mind and contemplate the possibilities. And keep this also in mind. There is great power in numbers. I have always been amazed how one gunman can hold 40 people hostage. Sure, everyone has to stick their neck out to some degree in such a situation, but, as with the incident of the hijacked aircraft on 911 that was retaken by the passengers and subsequently crashed into a Pennsylvania field, it is time for people to realize that taking NO action can often result in far worse consequences for everyone. The folks on that plane were hero's, not fools, and I would hope that all Americans, tobacco enthusiasts included, are made of that same admirable stuff. Again to paraphrase Franklin, "those that sacrifice liberty for safety, DESERVE NEITHER." And now . . .
The Original Article Continues . . .
The State of Washington, as shown in the tables has a tax ranking of 4th in the 2001 table and 6th in the 2002 table. This ranking is from one to fifty and represents comparatively the amount of tax on cigarette packs. (The higher the number, the less the tax so Washington state has a very high tax when compared with other states at $1.425 per pack). Now look at the state's ranking as far as percentage of smokers. In 2001, they ranked eleventh and with no tax increase ranked 25th (even worse) in 2002. The smoking percentage rankings at the far left of each table are from one to fifty as well, with the higher number representing the more smokers per capita. As you can see the percentage of smokers went up significantly only a couple of years AFTER the tax was instituted. Their ranking in 2002 as far as taxes was 6th highest and their per capita rating was 25. Now, of course, the figures change each year relatively - as one state's consumption or taxes changes, so does the relative position of other states. Nonetheless, the number of smokers in the state went up by over 100,000 people after people quickly got used to the higher tax. This is hardly a good example of a tax actually cutting consumption. Check out all of the states as each are unique in their reaction to tax changes. Some are in line with the "hoped for" results of the CDC, but many are not.
Looking at the national averages is equally interesting. The 2001 statistics show the overall average state tax on cigarettes at 60 cents per pack with 47 million folks smoking (this and all the numbers we will discuss in a moment). The newer 2002 tables (the bottom set) shows an average of 70 cents per pack tax and the total smoking population as 48 million. To summarize then, by increasing the average tax nationwide by ten cents per pack, another million people started smoking. Hardly a reasonable outcome considering the cost and the waste of revenue. We will at this point leave it to you to speculate what the real agenda is of taxation schemes to limit behavior, but even given this data, provided by anti-tobacco advocates, shows clearly the extra money must be going somewhere besides effective smoking cessation programs.
Two more States of interest: Let's look at Virginia and West Virginia. The latest figures in the table show the tax on cigarettes in Virginia (a tobacco producing state) to be the lowest in the nation at a mere 2.5 cents per pack. West Virginia has a tax twenty+ times that (55 cents). If the theory of taxes decreasing consumption were correct you would think that folks in Virginia would smoke at a greater rate per capita than those in West Virginia. The opposite is the case. West Virginia has a smoking rate of 28.2% while low tax Virginia has a lower usage rate of 22.5%. The year 2001 shows slightly different rates but in the same direction with a similar spread. Now some anti-smoking groups might try to sell you on the idea that the smokers of West Virginia are crossing the border to Virginia to get cheap cigarettes. However, since these data sets, as we will discuss below, are most likely estimates that could only be based on packs sold, there would be no record of sales in West Virginia from cigarettes brought privately across the border. There are so many weaknesses in this kind of data that I am truly surprised that any rational human being could give any credence to it. Still many do and, though it is obvious that there are many hidden and fiscal agendas at work here to do as much as possible to extract extra money from smokers, one would think it should be relatively easy to make the case for a new look at regulation by taxation. However, since the numbers are suspect anyway, the following may be more pertinent than the numbers alone. You see . . . . .
The preceding was an exercise in the pseudo-science of epidemiology and you followed right along believing, (to the benefit of any anti-tax advocate or anti-tobacco advocate as well), the numbers supplied. And they were the actual numbers supplied by the CDC. However, do you remember being asked if you were a smoker by the CDC in the last few years. I sure as Hell don't. These numbers are based on estimates that no one outside of the CDC has any clue as to upon what they were based. How do they know 48 million people smoke cigarettes? Do they include those that roll or make their own, or are they simply allocating so many cigarettes per person and basing their estimates according to number of packs sold as we suspected above. This is a clear example of the overwhelming weakness in statistical analysis whether it regards how many smoke, what may cause them to smoke less or quit, OR, most importantly, how many are actually damaged by smoking to the exclusion of all other factors. And . . . smoking what???
Now statistical analysis has long been used for everything from advertising, which TV shows stay on the air, and political prediction (polls). Groups that use this kind of information gathering, sample VERY small groups of people, average it out and apply it to an overall targeted population segment. Especially of concern are the number of underage smokers, as the tables' authors even admit that the YRBS (Youth Risk Behavioral Survey) is based on surveys over many years and therefore cannot provide a state's ranking accurately. If that be the case, then the percentages are likely highly speculative as well. The truth of this whole mess is found in the last sentence of each year's table. "Cigarette tax increases can restore state tobacco tax revenues to historic levels" (certainly true) - "while also reducing state smoking levels and related costs" (certainly not true according to their own figures). Further, the state's estimates as to the health costs of smoking are highly suspicious as well as they offer no clear definition on how they arrived at the figures or how doctors decide that smoking is the primary cause of someone's illness.
It is for reasons of balance, which we try always to achieve, to note that the CDC is not an organization staffed only with power hungry monsters. I have no doubt there are some truly talented and ostensibly altruistic folks working there. Oh, to be sure their funding is heavily weighted towards anti-tobacco generated revenue, but there are scientists of significant repute inhabiting the labs and conference rooms of the CDC. However, these scientists, even the best ones, are often looking at data supplied to them with little or no context. Sure any fool knows that smoking carries risk. So does sex and eating. So does getting out of bed every morning . . . or staying in bed every morning. What the CDC SHOULD be looking at is WHAT people smoke, how OFTEN and how MUCH, as well as the other environmental and lifestyle factors that may dramatically affect their fiscally outrageous experiments. They should know, as most of our readers must, that smoking packaged cigarettes in large quantities increases risk. Why this is so, however, may involve many factors other than the tobacco itself. For instance, what kind of person smokes four packs a day or even three or two? Why do they need so much of the substance? What is their personality type that they would need so much stimulation, or more likely anxiety relief, that they feel the need to spend the time (and money) involved in order to smoke so copiously. Is it, in fact, the pack mentality at work? It is interesting to note that humans, being the diverse creatures we are, are likewise extremely diverse in the ways they approach smoking. Many statistically heavy consumers let cigarettes burn up in the ashtray after only a few puffs. Others, who demonstrate less consumption, puff like the devil, never losing their grip on the stick until it is gone. Certainly no one could logically contend that the impact of these different methods of using tobacco create similar results physiologically, and further that they speak not of differences in personality. There is so much interesting research that COULD be done regarding smoking habits that go well beyond simply the numbers. I would venture to guess that we at RYO Magazine have data that is at least as useful, as to why people smoke the way they do, than does the CDC. Our budget is a bit smaller as well.
I recently saw a short piece on one of the cable news stations on cancer. The participants (some from the CDC) were discussing ways to reduce cancer risk (mostly it involved more and more MONEY for research, bad habit intervention and education all of which are big time, heavily financed - by you - cottage industries). They were showing various activities (or lack thereof in the case of exercise) and their relationship to cancer rates. Of course smoking was at the top of the list, but there were no figures provided as to dosage, lumping all smokers into one single group. They did however, as is beginning to happen a bit more often, include other lifestyle and environmental factors such as diet, exercise, etc. The problem was the cancers they were talking about were very general in nature and the end result was basically a plea for more regulation, taxation, (including new ones on fast foods), and more ostentatious groveling for copious financial support by governmental agencies (again, you the taxpayer). Nothing was accomplished in this segment - just more of the same innuendo and wool gathering. It is no wonder we have had so little success in finding causes and cures for cancer other than early detection which obviously works well with nearly any disease. Surgical removal of tumors and irradiation as well as extremely toxic drug treatments have mitigated cancers impact somewhat, but no one really understands the real cellular reasoning mechanisms behind this disease, nor is anyone much closer to a preventative cure. Bluntly, they focused little on things we should do and concentrated rather on all of the things we shouldn't.
The tables at the bottom of the page show mortality rates. We have discussed this before but I think it bears looking at again. It is the result of yet further opinion/survey-based science but shows some definite patterns. Out of the 2.4 million people that die each year in the US, around 1.8 million are over 65 with the next group (my age group) adding another 250,000 which leaves roughly 400,000 deaths of those under the age of 55. These numbers should give one pause as to what is really causing human death (mostly age) but now many of the anti-smoking groups are linking smoking to every disease imaginable. What convenient and potentially lucrative new field will emerge to harvest when tobacco has lost its right to exist. The new thrust currently is fast food as there are a lot of deep pockets there as well. If you go to the cover page, towards the bottom, I outline a sensible approach to the issue of finally assessing the risk of tobacco usage. And there is risk, certainly, but the numbers are so skewed with weak science, and with extremely vested interests in negative outcomes of the research, that only when we can reach a point where those who publish false information (or interpret falsely and knowingly publish inaccuracies) can be prosecuted, and attorneys who represent the ones who are getting rich off regulation of our personal choices can be held fiscally accountable as well, will we restore the science of medical research to the high standards from which it should never have deviated.
Please look at the tables that are here. Think for yourself. Analyze what is there and make your own conclusions, keeping in mind that many of these numbers are simply estimates, or who knows, even plain fiction. Statistical analysis does have a place in our decision-making process but only when the parameters are clearly defined and the results are accurate. And once you are convinced of the veracity of the data, only then, become proactive. Now I know that a statistical look at our readership might well show a preponderance of gay cowboys who ride black and white Pinto ponies - given the right polling location, of course. One can make numbers show anything they want, especially when there is no obligation to show the details of how the data was gathered and from whom. Until we, as a civilization, began to think for ourselves and hold those who make recommendations about anything, especially involving our personal choices, to a very high standard, we should not wonder that we have failed to solve other larger problems.
So why can't we keep our own little house in order. Now I am no Pollyanna and have no doubt there will always be some people I simply can't stand. The fact, however, may be that our uncanny dependence on statistics makes it impossible to form even a simple rationale for cooperation. With all of the theocratic/theological based animosity in the world, all based on opinion by the way, or FAITH, which is the ultimate form of opinion, we have a very long way to go before we have enough real facts to find common ground with anyone, especially if we need an empirical excuse. Open minds are not getting easier to find and returning to the analogy we started with - that of the machine - perhaps it really is time for a superior form of intelligence to take over our decision making processes for our own good. I resist that notion but if people like you and I do not begin to seriously campaign for drastic changes in who controls the rulebook, perhaps we deserve no better master.
I know I tend to harp on the subject of individual responsibility a lot in this publication, but frankly, though we receive a lot of mail about the subjects we write about, I still see little movement in our ability to control the forces who are bent on controlling us. We have so many more important things to consider on this planet than whether some of us smoke or not, that the huge waste of time and revenue can simply no longer be justified. Even as I write this piece, there is legislation before Congress to force carriers who deliver tobacco products to private residences to disclose that information to the government. Both the seller and buyer will be under unimpeded scrutiny by our Big Brother and I tell you, if we don't stop this kind of intrusion, how can we expect to stop even more intrusive regulation in the future, involving even our most private moments.
The time has come that even single issue candidates, who are enthusiastic supporters of individual rights, should be encouraged to run for office at all levels of government. And once elected, they must begin to get rid of those career bureaucrats, whose continued support of organizations that are raping our treasuries with the excuse that it somehow is in our best interest. These parasites should perhaps be prosecuted along with the lawyers who encourage them. We really do live in a rather small and manageable house if only we redefine what a representative is and firmly control the manner in which they represent us. There are more than 70 million adults in the US who use tobacco in one form or another. I can't remember when any successful Presidential candidate got more than 50 million votes and a potential strategy, based on this fact, could extend all the way down to the lowliest city council member.
I will leave you at peace now to digest all of the above and all of that which follows. AGAIN, please study the tables below and start thinking of ways you can become more proactive in the necessary battles that surely lie ahead in all areas of tax-based social engineering. Enjoy the new year and, please, take a serious look around you and see what you can do to regain, each day, just a little more of self. Here are the tables:
Until next time, enjoy - life is tenuous and should be enjoyed aggressively without regret - without fear - be just selfish enough to do simply that. - the ed. As usual, repeated below are some interesting links so that you can keep abreast of vital issues that affect as many as 70 million voting age citizens in the US.
Email us with any comments on this and/or any other issues that relate to your free choice.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we subscribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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