In a bit of news that should be much more outrageous than the Darren Wilson decision, a grand jury has declined to indict the cops who put Eric Garner in a chokehold, during which he died.
This story is less useful to the media and Democratic Party than the one in Ferguson, so it’s likely the protests, if there are any, will be fewer between and less well-covered. There is also the inconvenient fact that Garner was purveying a substance only bad people smoke, tobacco, at the time of his death. Since only bad people smoke, politicians are fine with driving up the price on these largely poor individuals. This regressive tax then creates black markets, which are usually filled by lower-class people like Garner, who are then preyed upon by authorities. The chain of causation here is far too clear to make a vague point about institutional oppression, and focusing on this story risks people reaching the dangerous conclusion that supporters of higher tobacco taxes want to see more Staten Island loosie hucksters strangled to death.
The highest-level authority currently pushing tobacco taxes is the World Health Organization. It met in Moscow this October to confront what it calls an “epidemic” of smoking and hammer out the details for a global tobacco tax, but conducted the meeting in secret, banning the public, then reporters, actions they blamed on “mounting pressure from [the] tobacco industry.”
If a global tobacco tax sounds like a great idea to you, consider that more than 50 percent of cigarettes sold in major Northeastern cities are bootleg. They just don’t raise the money authorities think they will, and a global cigarette tax would obviously exacerbate that problem. What the World Health Organization is really saying is they’d like to see Eric Garners planetwide. To the WHO, smoking must be ended, and that is a small price to pay for a smoke-free world. You know what they say about breaking a few eggs.
This is also an instructive lie from the WHO brought up during the proceedings:
Another milestone in tobacco control was adoption of the decision on electronic nicotine (and non-nicotine) delivery systems, also known as electronic cigarettes. This rather novel product was first launched by independent companies, but many of them are now being controlled by multinational tobacco companies. The decision acknowledges the need for regulations along the lines of policies concerning other tobacco products, including banning or restricting promotion, advertising and sponsorship of ENDS.
We’re supposed to find it reassuring that global health authorities are just as wary of “multinationals” as Adbusters Magazine. But by most estimates, that isn’t true at all. The U.S. market for e-cigarettes is 70 percent small independent manufacturers.
Even if it were the case, regulations and taxes of this kind usually work in favor of big tobacco. For example, Altria boasts on its website that it was alone in supporting Barack Obama’s ban on flavored cigarettes: “Altria Group and its tobacco companies stood alone within the tobacco industry in support of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.” Isn’t that interesting? (more…)