Reasons to raise the cigarette tax
In 1977, gas was 60 cents a gallon, the average new house cost $49,300, and South Carolina's tax on cigarettes was 7 cents a pack. Gas is now approaching $4 a gallon, the average home is $264,540, and our tax on cigarettes remains 7 cents. Gov. Mark Sanford recently vetoed a bill raising this tax to 57 cents. The measure was passed by a majority of the House and 70 percent of the Senate. Seventy percent of polled citizens favored the bill, which would have brought our state tax up to just half the national average of $1.14.
With convoluted logic, Sanford explained that "we agree with the idea of raising the cigarette tax," but that "raising cigarette taxes will lower the number of smokers, which means you'd have financial shortfalls in the future." His other objections were that revenue from the tax was to be used to fund expansion of the Medicaid program and that the tax increase was not revenue neutral. He's a numbers kind of guy.
Some numbers not factored into the governor's calculus are the 5,900 South Carolinians who die from cigarettes every year and the immense number of health-care dollars consumed by their care. Nor did he factor in studies from other states showing that significant hikes in cigarette taxes result in decreased youth smoking.
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In our fair state, after decades of decline, teen smoking is on the rise. Fully 35 percent of our 11th- graders admit to regular consumption of cigarettes. Since nearly all adult smokers become addicted as adolescents, tobacco companies appear to have a bright future in South Carolina.
How do we stack up against other states? New York just hiked its tax to $2.75 per pack, ahead of New Jersey's $2.57. New York City adds an additional $1.50, for a total of $4.25, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing to increase the city tax by 50 cents. The smoking rate for public high school students in New York City is 11 percent.
The difference between their tax and ours amounts to $4.18 per pack, or $41.80 per carton of 10. A single semi-trailer can hold 42,000 cartons, making the potential profit from smuggling just one load of cigarettes a whopping $1.75 million. This might explain why a cell of Hezbollah chose the Carolinas for its operating base and used cigarette smuggling as the means to fund its terrorist activities.
Who, besides smugglers, are winners in the cigarette tax veto? The tobacco companies, of course. When Iowa raised its per-pack tax by $1, cigarette sales dropped 36 percent. This is why big tobacco has showered money on Columbia in the form of campaign contributions, platinum sponsorships of the governor's inaugural party and legions of friendly lobbyists. For the record, state Sen. Wes Hayes voted for the increased cigarette tax. Carl Gullick was the only local House member voting to override the governor's veto. Voting to sustain the veto, thus dooming the cigarette tax hike, were Reps. Herb Kirsh, Gary Simrill and Greg Delleney. Rep. Bessie Moody-Lawrence did not vote.
Alan Nichols, MD
Heartless driver killed beloved dog
I am writing this letter in hopes of reaching the person who recently came through our quiet neighborhood on Burkin Road in McConnells -- where children and dogs play all the time and the speed limit is 25 mph -- and murdered our beloved pet and left her to die like a piece of trash! This person actually hit two of our dogs, killing one and injuring the other. I have a hard time understanding how, at 25 mph, he could have done that, and the answer is, I don't think he was driving 25 mph!
Was it too much effort to stop and check on her or even to walk just a little way to let me know that the queen of my heart was gravely injured? If he had, I might have had the chance to hold that beloved angel close to me as she died a senseless death, and she might have heard my sobs as I told her how much I loved her and how sorry I was!
Many people have loved a dog at some time in their lives. I have had many, but I never had one like Sarah. She came into our lives and was my parent's dog, but my dad was terminally ill, and we were forced to "baby-sit." We did not want to love her ... we didn't want another dog, but you couldn't help but love her once you knew her. She just demanded it!
The only unhappiness she ever caused us was the day she left us!
Bennie Lynn Clawson
Here's a better way to hold primaries
I didn't pay much attention to politics until the 2000 campaign. That's when I decided I needed to keep an eye on a dangerous and moronic son of a Bush named George W. I've learned a lot about national politics since then, but I never knew until 2008 how convoluted the primary process is. What idiots came up with such an uncivilized, unfair and illogical scheme? Every state and possession does it differently and at a different time. This democratic train wreck could have been avoided by a few common-sense rules.
First, let the candidates campaign for six months starting in November. Second, all states and possessions should use the same process for casting and counting ballots and appointing delegates. Third, all primaries should be held on the same day in May so all voters would have the same amount of exposure to the candidates and could make a rational choice. And, fourth, hold the conventions in June so the parties' nominees can battle it out between June and November.
Simple and elegant! Those who voted too early in Michigan and Florida didn't know Obama very well. Hillary had name recognition from eight years as first lady. I can't help thinking that primaries held in January might have had different outcomes had they been delayed until May. Someone should do a study on that.
Signs should tell date of election
Regarding pitiful local primary election turnout: Who knew there was an election? Perhaps the blight of candidates' signs can be more effective, or at least put to better use next time, if they include the election date.
Please watch out for motorcyclists
Recently, I attended a procession to the wake of a lady who was killed on a motorcycle, and two friends are in still in critical condition in Carolinas Medical Center from this incident. Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine was hit at a red light making a left hand turn. In both of these accidents, the victims were hit from behind.
l just don't understand why people are not looking out for bikers. We are motorists just like those in other vehicles and deserve to feel safe while we are riding. I know that accidents are going to happen. But if people would just start taking a few extra precautions when approaching a motorcycle, these things would not happen.
We, as motorcyclists, are taking riding courses to teach us how to ride and practice safety, but what good is it when vehicles are pulling out in front of us, hitting us from behind and just plain not taking any consideration for the bikers?
All I am asking -- and I think I speak for all motorcyclists -- is to please watch out for us while sharing the road with us.
Teresa "Tee" English
County should adopt no-smoking policy
What a pleasure it has become to go into a restaurant for lunch or dinner and to be in a smoke-free environment. Now, if only we did not have to search out nonsmoking dining facilities, our eating experience would be even more enjoyable.
An interesting personal observation, and I believe this has been proven through many studies, the nonsmoking restaurants appear to be doing well and not suffering any patron loss since adopting the non-smoking policy.
It is now time our city and county officials take a serious look at adopting an overall nonsmoking policy in all public places.
John R. Bidwell
New cycling laws are welcome
I was so happy to see Mark Sanford finally made a move in the right direction to make cycling safer in this state. As an avid cyclist, I've had the great pleasure of riding my bike in many cities across this beautiful country of ours. In my opinion, York County is the most dangerous place I've ever ridden. While most motorists yield to cyclists, there are a percentage who try to see how close they can get. This is extremely dangerous.
Several cyclists have been killed in our area by motorists who wouldn't slow down and yield. This is a tragedy. Even areas designated as "biking friendly," such as the area around the airport, are a joke. Many motorists use that area as their personal speedway.
Cycling is a rapidly growing sport that is showing no signs of slowing down. With gas prices on the increase and the production of more comfortable bicycles, there will be more bikes using the roads.
I urge motorists to slow and yield when approaching a cyclist, and observe state laws pertaining to biking.