A complaint for the overtaxed smoker



There’s a corner of Washington, DC, a few blocks from downtown near the White House, where a cigarette is your only hope. The buildings are garish blocks of glass – “like someone spills a giant ice cube tray,” as one wag put it – while the color scheme ranges from charcoal gray to navy gray. The place can look like boredom incarnate, and it’s even worse when the rain darkens the air and the streets fill with the soulless din of tires slipping through puddles.

He can wear on you, that dull slice of middle-managerial black. But at least for me there is one thing that can brighten it up: cigarette smoke. I could grab it from a passerby or light up a Marlboro myself. But anyway, I feel paradoxically improved. I think, at least someone here is having a good time.

I share this not because Washington is boring, it’s kind of breaking news, but because that kind of experience may be the only argument left for those of us who enjoy rare cigarettes. On the empirical front, we have been routed. It turns out that smoking is bad for you. Hundreds of thousands of deaths per year can be linked to it. This should only be done sparingly, but it makes the experience all the more valuable. These cheerful moods, these less gloomy urban landscapes, these evenings that burn a little longer, both in the moment and in the memory bank.

We no longer know if this counts for anything. Recently, Democrats in Congress announced a new plan to tax the rich. It wasn’t breaking news either, given that Congressional Democrats are announcing a new plan to tax the wealthy in roughly every Zodiac Period. And as always, the ruling class party has a rather convenient definition of “rich”. Their plan does nothing to fill the loopholes used by billionaires – that is, their constituents – or to tackle lavish heirlooms. What it does is raise excise taxes on tobacco and vaping products, which disproportionately benefit those who are not very wealthy.

The arithmetic here is not the issue. Democrats are looking to make their bill look only fiscally responsible so they can use the reconciliation process and dodge Senate filibustering. Still, that their budget theater chooses to overshadow the rich and smokers is no accident. Both groups are easy targets. That’s why the current federal tax on cigarettes is around $ 1 a pack (Nancy Pelosi and her friends want to double it), while states and municipalities can impose several dollars more. There is no lobby to protest, no identity political group to play the victim.

So while smoking may be the salt of the earth, it is also old-fashioned, considered a particularly dirty habit by our secular law and justice. This attitude applies not only on the demand side, but also on the supply side. Progressives might chirp about the wonderfully sustainable new marijuana farm down the road, but the American tobacco farmer, a staple of this colonial-era country’s economy, doesn’t arouse such sympathy. The number of tobacco farms has plunged, even as cannabis farming spawns America’s next great land rush.

The inconsistency there – the pot is bad for you too! – is another clue that it is as much about fashion as it is about health. I was once in Georgetown smoking a cigarette when a woman was walking ostentatiously coughing and waving her hand. Cut to M Street about two feet from where dozens of exhaust pipes sat in traffic. As comedian Nick DiPaolo once said, our metropolitan elites “don’t smoke but they’ll run behind a bus for two and a half hours.” This is the social stature, indicating that one is from the enlightened tribe and not from the blind tribe. It’s the same reason school administrators are screaming to protect children from secondhand smoke, while cramming as much technology into the classroom as possible, even though research shows a strong link between watching a screen and soaring teen suicide rates.

This elite tobacco anathema is relatively new. It was Jean-Paul Sartre, after all, not Larry the Cable Guy, who said, “Life without cigarettes is a little less worth living. Today, he would be kicked out of the same cafes he haunted. And don’t you miss this kind of place sometimes? The smoky pub? The cabaret bar overflowing with notes of jazz and glowing little fireflies? Certainly it falls back on the experiential, but then one of the problems of our time is that we neglect such lived experiences. GDP cannot calculate a good night.

Earlier this year, writer Matthew Walther suggested that smoking will ultimately be banned in America. And although he has much more authority on this subject than I do, I would humbly disagree. The goal, it seems to me, is more electroshock than outright ban. Beautiful people need a untermenschen feel superior to. Busy people need another campaign forever to keep them busy while the kids are in the business. Green sunglasses need an imaginary pocket to choose from.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some who would like to win this war. I once spoke to a few anti-smoking activists who freely admitted that their long-term goal was a total ban. But these are the finger sniffers and the fanatics. For all the others, the smoker has an essentially psychological function, especially since he has been largely banned from public spaces. And isn’t it such a success? Our buildings could look like Yevgeny Zamiatine’s We, our kids can stare unblinkingly at a rippling TikTok nebula, the smell of marijuana can escape apartments and parks, but at least no one ever has to take an unwanted sip of tobacco smoke.

Congratulations to everybody.


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