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Uncle Sam Loves Our Bad Habits

As we enter our second phase of the Covid-19 crisis, moral issues seem to be on the rise. States like Illinois are regressing into restrictive phases of shutting down businesses, namely bars and restaurants. Servers, bartenders, cooks and even an owner or two will be re-filing for unemployment. Hopefully, they will get their checks quickly to keep up those bad habits like smoking cigarettes. We don’t question that Covid-19 is deadly but rather how deadly does something have to be to get Uncle Sam to ban it?

Covid-19 has taught us that we matter more than the economy since we are still in a near shutdown country 8 months later. It’s taught us to take pleasure in the outdoors like our parks and streets where we can walk six feet apart, keeping our health a priority. It’s taught us that our government will roll out bonuses for unemployment and even send out a stimulus check. In all of this, we have definitely learned that Uncle Sam loves us and wants to keep us safe, or does he?

Cigarette smoking kills more people a day than any health pandemic that reached American shores. In just one year around 480,000 people die of complications related to smoking, double than the 229,000 that have died of Covid-19. So why can we still smoke cigarettes but not dine out or have a beer at the corner bar? Money.

American’s bad habits generate billions of dollars that funnel through the local to the federal government. The smokers of America are taxed an average of 44% per pack. The percentage varies with Chicagoans paying over $6 a pack in tax while New Yorkers paid less than $6. Either way, the sin tax on smokers pays for the government’s bills including anti-smoking campaigns and the public healthcare system. But wouldn’t the government be smart to eliminate smoking to lower their bills? If a smoker quit and stopped spending their average $190 a month, wouldn’t their better health have a domino effect on the health system for the government?

During this Millenia employers began to view smokers as a health and financial risk for the company. Employers lose $5800 for smoker related illnesses but add cigarette breaks and cigarette-related loss of workday productivity and the losses double to over $10,000 a year. That’s big money for a lung destroying disease.

That’s where Covid-19 shutdown sounds fishy. If Uncle Sam really cared about our health, cigarettes would be outlawed-a 21st-century prohibition to save our lungs. But they’re not. Maybe Uncle Sam should either open up the economy for everyone to go back to work or eliminate all of our vices. As a smoker for over 30 years, I’ve been waiting for Uncle Sam to finally quit my bad habit for me. But just like a fickle lover, he’s not really that into me, he’s more interested in my money.

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