Counting on the high price of bad habits

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2003

I know I'll probably make a lot of people angry when I say this, but I hope the city of Andalusia does raise the cigarette and tobacco tax. And

after they raise theirs, I hope the state raises it. The higher the cigarette tax, the better.

No, I'm not a fresh air purist who sniffs with disdain when anybody lights up within a hundred feet of me. Those who know me, know it's quite the opposite. I'm not just

a smoker, I'm a heavy smoker, and have been for 25 years.

And I don't want to be one anymore.

Terry and I both have started cutting back severely - I save my smoke time for after meals and that's it. And when I'm driving. And just before bed. And just one when I wake up.

See the problem? Besides the physical addiction, there's the habit.

Push the plate away, reach for the pack. Fasten the seat belt, reach for the lighter…. That's the most ridiculous thing of all. Here I am, so careful to buckle myself in, preventing a relatively quick death in the event of an accident, then lighting up a cigarette, and inviting many kinds of long deaths, none of them painless or pleasant.

So I'm planning on the Kojak approach, keeping a Tootsie Pop on hand to satisfy the habit, while relying on the patch to satisfy the addiction.

There is no doubt that smoking contributed to the deaths of both of my parents. I remember last year, being enraged at being an orphan at 39. Do I want my children that angry with me? No. And there's yet another factor - the example we've set. True, our children have been thoroughly and well indoctrinated by the DARE program - the anti tobacco education is much better than it was when I first started sneaking smokes in the school bathroom. But as long as Terry and I do smoke, the higher the probability becomes that my boys will too - and I simply won't have that.

So Mayor, Councilmen, Governor Riley - if you decide to raise the cigarette tax, I'll be on your side. If you price cigarettes high enough, it may keep more than one smoker out there from committing long-term suicide by getting them to quit. Priced high enough, I'd have to choose between cigarettes and books - and the books will always win that fight.

Now if I can talk the city into raising the taxes on cheeseburgers, chocolate and pizza…..