Well, it finally happened. Big Brother now sits on the bar stool next to our own, taunting us to give in and scratch that nicotine itch. Only this time, after offering to light our cigarette while he collects his share in taxes, he brow beats us into the January cold like some kind of vagrant.
For many smokers in Forest Park and across the state, this is what it feels like now that Illinois is under a statewide smoking ban that prohibits people from lighting up in public spaces. Governments across the country have relied on revenue from so-called sin taxes to support education, infrastructure and other public projects. But now, with Illinois being the most recent, 22 states in the U.S. have kicked smokers to the curb.
The message to smokers is simple. Get over it. And we agree.
As long as Uncle Sam has bills to pay we can all expect to pay taxes. Naturally, the most obvious places for any government to look to for revenue are those activities that a great number of us participate in. Many of us drive cars, so we pay taxes on fuel. All of us buy things, so there is a sales tax. The list is long and in all fairness to the tax collector, it makes sense to try and ensure that everyone pays their fair share.
And once our elected officials have collected a sizeable fund, it is our job to tell them how it should be spent. It is quite apparent that residents of Illinois and citizens in this country see little sense in pouring that money into a leaking bucket. This is why we ask our governments to regulate certain behaviors. Highway traffic, the use of narcotics and guns are all regulated for safety, which in turn impacts the amount we spend when people don’t heed the risks. Smoking is no different.
In a statement released by the governor’s office, Illinois can expect to see a 20-percent drop in lung cancer rates based on smoking bans in other states. Surely, this will impact the $3.2 billion in annual medical expenses in Illinois that are a direct result of smoking. According to lawmakers, secondhand smoke kills nearly 3,000 adults and children in this state each year.
To reduce the costs society incurs as a result of smoking is responsible government. To be mindful of the impact one’s own behavior has on others is responsible citizenship.
In listening to residents and reading the writing that was on the wall, Illinois lawmakers have created a level playing field for industries that have catered to smokers. At the same time, those who care to are still free to enjoy their cigarettes. Nonsmokers, meanwhile, should breathe easier knowing the burden of tobacco use just got a little lighter.