Recently in Smoking Category

The local NBC affiliate here in San Francisco ran a story about new state laws that took effect on January 1. One of those new laws was targeted at smokers:

The New Year -- and a new law -- will force California smokers to move 20 feet from main entrances, exits and operable windows of certain public buildings in the state when they light up.

The Statewide Smoke-Free Entryway Law, AB 846, that goes into effect Thursday, prohibits smoking within 20 feet of public building entryways and exits, including those of California State University, University of California and community college buildings. The law excludes prison yards.

This law is just more hassle for smokers, but I didn't cite this story to talk about the law. In the story, Ned Roscoe, a former California gubernatorial candidate who ran in the recall election, conceded that second-hand smoke is indeed a problem:

"I think that secondhand smoke is definitely a threat to the mental health of non-smokers. It drives them crazy."

I totally agree.

Ban the Ban in D.C.

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From InstaPundit: "BAN THE BAN is a weblog devoted to fighting D.C.'s smoking ban. Check it out."

I did check it out. They want to pass a smoking ban in D.C. much like the one California has. (Too bad it doesn't look like California's ban will be rescinded any time soon.) Some commenters there who support the ban have some really odd notions of rights and justifications for the ban (just like here in California).

My comments on some of the wilder statements left in response to "If You Were in the Service Industry..." (Nov. 6) -

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Rhye read my last post this morning and confessed that she has been cheating the last couple of weeks. She's been stealing one or two cigarettes a day from her mother or me, when we weren't in our rooms or when we were sleeping.

I never noticed, but evidently Rhye's mother has caught her at least once. Last night, Rhye's mother stopped by our room and silently offered Rhye a cigarette. I saw the offer, thought it was odd but said nothing.

This morning, Rhye woke me up and said she needed to tell me something that was going to make me mad. I was wondering what could be so bad I needed to be woke up about it. My first thoughts were that it was about the car, or the painters, then I decided it was too early for any crisis to have happened to either of those yet. I closed my eyes for a few seconds to think, and I remembered Rhye's mother's offer a cigarette, plus my post about Rhye yesterday. I put two and two together and asked Rhye if she'd been smoking. She said yes, then told me the whole story.

Rhye said the stressful things I listed in my previous post were just to much to deal with and she just couldn't stay smoke-free. One thing I found a bit amusing: She said the cigarettes didn't taste the same - they tasted "nasty". Rhye's mother smokes generic cigarettes, which don't rank high on the taste scale (yard clippings taste better), but I got the impression that the "nasty" taste was due to more than just her mother's brand of cigarettes.

I wasn't mad, but I was a bit disappointed. I told Rhye that she was only cheating herself - she chose to quit smoking because it was something she wanted to do. She was doing it for herself and no one else.

Rhye told me that she's going to quit again today. I don't know if she'll be able to kick the habit this time or not. My advice to Rhye: If you want to quit, quit. If you don't, don't. But don't pretend to quit.

Rhye - Smoke-free for 23 days

Rhye has not smoked a cigarette in a little over 3 weeks. She hasn't really said too much about it in the last couple of weeks, but I wanted to give her credit for making it this long, especially given the stress she's been going through: the loss of her previous job, trying to find a new job, filing claims against her ex-employer for back wages, continuation of her medical insurance, plus all the hassles involved with contractors and repairs to the house - locating them, setting up appointments, getting estimates, checking their licenses, etc.

In retrospect, this may not have been the best time for Rhye to give up smoking, but she did it anyway. I'm proud of you, Rhye!!

Back on June 10, I criticized Jenesse Miller's letter to the editor that appeared in the SF Chronicle, in which she supported a $1.50 per pack increase in California's cigarette tax. Thanks to the wonder of Google, Ms. Miller found my post and decided to leave her comments. Her comments have been repeated below in italics, along with my response:

Since you asked, I think that if I was still a smoker and I knew that the tax would actually go to programs that help people quit (not to mention an analysis showed that the additional tax would cause over half a million smokers to quit), and help kids decide not to start smoking in the first place, I may not love it, but would at least consider that to be a fair proposal.

The question I asked was, "I don't really have $1,000 to spare. Do you?". How can a new tax be fair if it so high that it is unaffordable? If the tax is excessively high, what difference does it make where the money goes? Considering that only 20 cents of the $1.50 per pack tax would be earmarked for anti-smoking efforts, how is the other $1.30 of the tax fair to smokers? Since you are only pretending to know how a smoker would think or feel, it is easy to see how you can pretend this tax is fair.

I have a problem with the whole concept of forcing people to quit using a legal product by raising the price so high they can't afford it any more. I made my choice to be a smoker, and those who support high cigarette taxes are interfering with my right to choose.

As far as the kids who start smoking - where's the parents? If parents are unable or unwilling to keep cigarettes out of the hands of their minor children, why is that my problem? There are already laws on the books prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to minors. Enforce them.

The reality is that right now the tobacco tax is being redirected into other things and that's not fair to smokers -- if they're going to be taxed, part of that tax should go into quit programs that actually benefit them.

Part of the current state cigarette tax is already directed into programs that are supposed to benefit smokers. 25 cents of California's current 87 cent per pack cigarette tax is earmarked by Proposition 99 (November 1988) for:

  • Tobacco-related health education programs and disease research.

  • Medical and hospital care and treatment of patients who cannot afford those services, and for whom payment will not be made by any private coverage or federal program.

  • Programs for fire prevention; environmental conservation; protection, restoration, enhancement, and maintenance of fish, waterfowl, and wildlife habitat areas; and enhancement of state and local parks and recreation.

The other 62 cents of the cigarette tax is earmarked for the following:

  • 10 cents goes to state General Fund.

  • 2 cents goes into the Breast Cancer Fund.

  • 50 cents funds Proposition 10 (November 1998) ("California Children and Families First Trust Fund")

If the current cigarette tax is not fair to smokers, increasing it by 172% surely cannot be fair and is not an answer. To raise tax revenue for quit programs, I would seriously look at repealing Proposition 10 and direct those funds into Proposition 99 - effectively tripling the revenue available without costing smokers one cent more than they are paying now. Why do smokers alone have to bear the cost of a program to benefit children? (With California's current budget mess, that 50 cent tax would actually be more helpful if it were routed to the General Fund instead.)

And frankly, if you keep smoking, it is likely that my tax dollars (and the tax dollars of the 82% of Californians who don't smoke) will be the ones paying for your treatment for cancer or heart disease, hospitalization, and so on, as they are currently paying for people who are now dying from years of tobacco use.

So what? The costs of medical care for the minority who need it are spread across the majority through the tax dollars and insurance premiums paid by everyone. This is by design; this is how it is supposed to work. The 18% of Californians who do smoke actually pay higher taxes and insurance premiums than non-smokers do. Their tax dollars benefit non-smokers too - it is hardly unfair that medical care is provided to those who need it, smoker or not.

You can point at any disease or disorder - only a minority suffer from them at any given time, and the costs of their treatment is spread across everyone. Approximately 6% of the population suffers from diabetes. The cost of medical care for diabetics is spread across the 94% of the population that does not have diabetes. Should taxes be raised for diabetics so that the majority does not have to pay for that care?

Perhaps that will further your belief that I'm a loser... and I have lost; lost my grandfather at age 62 to cancer caused, in all likelihood, by smoking, not to mention my 21-year-old sister has been smoking since the Joe Camel marketing-to-little-kids days when she was 12 years old, and I know she might seriously consider quitting smoking now if it became too expensive to continue.

You seem to miss an important point here. Your sister is an adult now - she has the right to make her own choices. You may want her to quit, and it may even be better for her if she does, but that is her choice to make, not yours. She has apparently made her choice, and you don't like it. Get over it. If the only way she can be convinced to quit is to make cigarettes prohibitively expensive, your arguments must not be that persuasive. (I certainly don't find them to be so.)

I stand by my position on the proposed tobacco tax.

It looks to me like you're standing on pretty weak ground.

Good luck in your own quit attempts. It can be done.

If you would read my prior posts a little closer, you would see that it is my girlfriend Rhye who is attempting to quit smoking, not me. She has been smoke-free now for 2 weeks. I am well aware that it can be done but I have no intention of quitting at this time.

Thanks for your comments, but I am not any more in support of this tax than I was last month. Despite whatever lofty goals you think may be achieved, a tax that is a bad idea and bad policy is not the proper way to accomplish them.

Way to go, Rhye!! Yesterday marked one week for my girlfriend Rhye being smoke free. Every now and then, Rhye tells me that she gets an urge to have a cigarette, but I don't think they have been real bad as she hasn't gone crazy for a cigarette nor has she cheated / relapsed.

Last Thursday was pretty rough on Rhye because she got fired from her job. She openly admitted she really wanted to smoke a lot that day (because she was very upset and stressed). I'll have to give her a lot of credit - she resisted the urges and stuck with the program.

Rhye is now down to about 5 days left before she is supposed to be "smoke free". The interval between is smokes is fairly long - somewhere between 3 1/2 and 4 hours. Sometimes she gets bored and wants to smoke a cigarette before the timer says she can, but she is not crawling the walls.

LifeSign update - 15 days left

The LifeSign is imposing a little more delay each morning before Rhye can have her first cigarette. I found out this morning that this first interval is 1/2 of whatever the current interval is. When Rhye turned on the LifeSign, she had to wait 47 minutes before having her first cigarette. After her first cigarette, the timer interval increased to 1 hour 34 minutes - exactly twice the length of the 47 minute interval.

Rhye was not a happy camper when I told her she had to wait 47 minutes after I woke her up to have her first cigarette. I don't know that I would be either. I suggested that she go ahead and get ready for work, and that by the time she was done, the timer would go off and she could have her cigarette. I think Rhye was watching the clock, because she finished and sat down in her chair exactly one minute before the timer went off. And boy, was she itching for that first cigarette. Hopefully it will get better as the days count down.

My fiancée Rhye has started working the LifeSign program for real now. Her countdown started last Saturday. I surprised Rhye the Friday night before by predicting exactly how many days the LifeSign unit would give her to quit smoking - 18 days.

On Saturday (the first day of Stage 2), the LifeSign was letting her have a cigarette about once every hour and ten minutes. By Monday (yesterday), that time interval had increased to about one hour and thirty minutes. She's dealing with it pretty well so far. It will be interesting to see Rhye can really quit smoking without suffering too much from withdrawal.