Quick Hits – Hoist by their own fumar!

All Elgin had to do is wait. But no! They decided to listen to the latest liberal group with a solution in search of a problem by raising the municipal smoking age to 21. The city council figured that, with an impending similar statewide statute set to hit the books in January, they’d  jump the gun with a meaningless symbolic gesture just to get a few pats on the back from the nanny-staters who refuse to let natural selection take its course.

If you recall, we previously discussed how the teenage smoking rate has plummeted from 23 percent in 2005 to a scant 7.6 percent in 2017. And while I’d certainly like to see it sitting at zero, considering the vagaries of human nature, this is as low as it’s gonna go. The truth is, that miniscule rate is a massive success story for which a slew of educators deserve a boatload of credit.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that Springfield forum! Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the statewide statute and there’s absolutely no hope of any kind of override. So, now Elgin and Aurora stand alone as the only Kane County municipalities with teen smoking bans, and you’d have to travel as far as Wheaton to find a similar state of affairs.

Teen smoking

So now, all your average 18 to 20 year-old Elgin smoker has to do is head to South Elgin, Streamwood, or Sleepy Hollow to pick up a pack of their favorite smokes, and they’ll likely pick up a few other items along the way.

So, let’s do the math!

Elgin’s population has increased to 114,000 of which 32,000 are 17 or under. Extrapolating from that, we get approximately 6,000 residents between the ages of 18 and 20. Apply the 7.6 percent teen smoking rate, and you end up with about 500 smokers, who at the going rate, polish off an $11.50 pack of cigarettes a day.

Let’s keep going.

Since those less affluent teens tend to buy ‘em by the pack, that adds up to about four trips to the grocery or convenience store a week. Given the grazing habits of most teenagers, they’ll probably spend another five dollars on snacks and soft drinks, too. With an average purchase of 1.75 packs of cigarettes a trip (seven packs a week in four trips), the average amount spent per trip comes to $25, plus $2.13 in sales tax.

Stay with me! We’re almost there!

That means, for absolutely no good reason, Elgin merchants are about to lose out on $2.6 million in annual sales with an associated sales tax loss of a quarter of a million dollars. And that ain’t chump change.

Before my fellow liberals start grabbing their torches and pitchforks one more time, smoking is a suicidal habit which costs this county $170 billion in direct medical care and another $150 billion in lost productivity every bleepin’ year. But it is legal! And as my hero Driver Tom likes to say, if we can send an 18-year-old to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, they should be able to smoke a cigarette if they so choose.

And banning cigarettes would work just as well as Prohibition did.

So let’s do a little more math!

Assuming that Springfield smoking bill would pass, the Elgin City council took it upon themselves to appease a nanny-state liberal group in search of a problem by willfully embarking upon a specious symbolic act that will not only fail to put a dent in the local teen smoking rate, but will put a number of Elgin merchants at a distinct disadvantage to their neighboring suburban counterparts.

Great job folks!

16 thoughts on “Quick Hits – Hoist by their own fumar!

  1. This is only the beginning Jeff.

    Soon a tax on clean air will be instituted because of the lack of tax funds derived from tobacco.

    Love the transitioning article. It was easy to follow the money.

  2. OK, so let’s do a little more math…

    1) Rauner vetoed the statewide law, presumably under pressure from tobacco companies and retailers. So Elgin’s ordinance is in fact meaningful. And please don’t give me any “they had no way of knowing that” arguments. It’s entirely possible they suspected Rauner would in fact veto the law, and even if they didn’t, what comes to pass in the real world cuts a lot more ice with me than theoretical arguments.

    2) If you’re doing a cost-benefit analysis, smoking causes cancer, and cancer ain’t cheap. Those costs tend to be spread around the health-case system. I don’t personally feel like paying more in health insurance, hospital bills, etc. so that a pack of merchants can make a few extra bucks selling cigarettes to kids.

    3) When you say “banning cigarettes would work just as well as Prohibition did,” you’re ignoring one salient fact: The overwhelming majority of smokers started as teenagers. Anything that could throw an obstacle in their path, until they reach an age of better judgment, is worth it.

  3. Pan is correct. At 18 they do not have the maturity and good judgement to buy tobacco. That is why they cannot vote

  4. I stand by my decision to restrict the sale of tobacco related materials to young people under 21 and the distribution of those materials to young people under 18. I have not and will never lose one seconds sleep over that decision.

  5. How long do you think it would take to carve a state wide statue? Wold it be anything akin to a county wide bust?

  6. Before anyone can “lose one seconds sleep” over anything, they have to have a conscience first.

    • John,

      That’s a bit of cheap shot!

      • Jeff,

        You know me. I can always bring you facts and examples. Just say the word. I stand behind mine. We can start with electric aggregation or water bills on the “conscience” tab, if you like then go on from there.

  7. “…for absolutely no good reason, Elgin merchants are about to lose out on $2.6 million in annual sales with an associated sales tax loss of a quarter of a million dollars. And that ain’t chump change.”

    Jeff, that IS chump change to the council. It’s also the perfect gateway to raising property taxes for the fourth consecutive year in a row.

  8. Jeff’s argument against the Elgin age restriction of 21 to buy cigarettes assumes that everyone affected will drive to another town and continue to smoke. His argument also assumes that an equal number of teens will start smoking in Elgin regardless of the ordinance. Lastly, Jeff’s math does not include the health & financial benefits associated with a reduced smoking rate among teens.

    Smoking costs the average smoker at least $1.1 million over a lifetime, according to a WalletHub state-by-state analysis of the financial cost of the habit. If the Elgin’s restriction reduces teen smoking by 20%, then your 500 smokers are reduced to 400, leading to $101 million in lifetime savings.

    Financially, I would estimate that the community overall is better off. Of course, there is more to it than money. The Council was asked to balance freedom of commerce versus public health. Personally, I like encouraging youth to do the right thing early (age 18 voting) and encouraging youth to wait when indulging in a vice (drinking alcohol).

    • Todd,

      1. They will continue to smoke because it’s an addiction and you’re talking about a whole five mile trip to South Elgin, or simply picking up a pack on the way to or from work. This ain’t even a speed bump on their smoking road.

      2. And yes! An equal number of teens will start smoking – or more – because you tend to get a rebound from the the kind of steep teen smoking rate decline we’ve seen since 2005.

      3. I clearly acknowledged what the medical and social costs of smoking are in this and a previous smoking column, but that wan’t my point. If you want to write your own column, by all means do so, but my argument involves the direct effect on the city of Elgin which is essentially going it alone.

      4. Despite what you absurd nanny-staters believe, this teen smoking ban will NOT decrease teen smoking in Elgin. If it was statewide, that would be another story entirely.

      5. “Encouraging youth to do the right thing” has already worked as indicated by the precipitous decline in teen smoking since 2005. I’ll keep saying it, this is a solution in search of a problem.

      6. If smoking is bad (and it is) then make cigarettes illegal. Until then, if an 18 year-old wants to smoke they should be able to do so.

      Jeff

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