Surely it can’t be legal to market nicotine as a kind of candy? Yet, that’s what the tobacco industry is doing, as I learned this morning from an article by Beth Hawkins, distributed by Reader Service News. Ms. Hawkins was writing about an attempt to lower taxes on “smokeless tobacco” in Minnesota. I thought “smokeless tobacco” was a euphemism for chewing tobacco, so my eyes popped when I read:
These days, nicotine delivery systems are much more appealing to youth and much more likely to escape adult attention. There are mints that look like Tic Tacs packaged in tins made to resemble Altoids, candy-flavored blunts that look like fruit leather and gum. Most popular are “snus,” tea-bag-like packets kids suck on.
According to the article, “the days where smokeless tobacco meant a squat puck containing unpalatable dip or snuff are long over.”
The bill designed to lower taxes on these insidious products was apparently crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provides templates to state legislatures as a means of promoting various far-right crusades.
You might recall ALEC’s role in the deadly “stand your ground” law adopted by Florida and a number of other states. According to a report quoted by Ms. Hawkins, ALEC’s initiatives also include “Municipal Pension Reform”; “Using Non-Addictive Medication in Alternatives to Incarceration,” and “Regulation Without Representation” (warning of “how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “has taken on an ardent regulatory agenda that threatens the representative nature of our government.”
I had imagined the sinister tobacco merchants were defeated in the developed world, what with those multimillion-dollar judgments against them and the laws banning smoking in restaurants and other public places. I figured they were concentrating on poisoning the unprotected people of the Third World. But apparently I underestimated their resourcefulness.
The villainy is unabated. And the villains even have the nerve to demand tax breaks! Frighteningly, they’re apparently on the brink of achieving their objective:
Ms. Hawkins informs us that:
The ALEC model bill — entitled “Resolution on the Enhancement of Economic Neutrality, Commercial Efficiency, and Fairness in the Taxation of Moist Smokeless Tobacco (MST) Products” — fared better in Wisconsin, where lawmakers got a letter in support from ALEC. Gov. Scott Walker, the guiding force behind other ALEC proposals, such as right to work, shoot-first and voter ID legislation, vetoed it.
When the infamous Scott Walker balks at a bill, you have to know it’s extreme. But being extreme is what ALEC is all about. You probably know who the organization’s most powerful backers are – the billionaire Koch brothers.
Only The Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, but I, for one, am stunned by the depths of depravity to which America’s “free-market” profiteers have descended, backed by limitless funds and fueled by a perverted ideology.