Smokers have become a cash cow for government, as evident in New York City where a single pack of cigarettes can cost as much as $12 due to state and local excise taxes equaling $5.85 a pack.
A fact not lost on the Obama administration as they scramble to find ways to pay for Obamacare.
In the nanny state we live in today, lawmakers have little hesitation to hit smokers with punitive taxes and justify it by saying it’s for their own good. Under the Affordable Care Act, such penalties could subject millions of smokers to fees costing thousands of dollars.
The Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” to its detractors – allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.
For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.
The law does allow for younger smokers to be charged lower penalties under rules proposed last fall by the Obama administration.
“We don’t want to create barriers for people to get health care coverage,” California state Assemblyman Richard Pan told AP. “We want people who are smoking to get smoking cessation treatment.”
Penalties can be avoided by joining smoking cessation programs, but this applies primarily to those covered on the job because employer plans operate under different rules than those who purchase coverage individually.
Conveniently, older smokers who can’t afford health insurance add another brick to the path that leads to a single payer system, the ultimate goal of the Democratic Party.
Nonetheless, smoking contributes to nearly 450,000 deaths a year, so we should all be grateful for a benevolent Uncle Sam willing to exert a little tough love to discourage us from making bad decisions.
And things could be worse, a member of the Oregon State Legislature just introduced a new bill that would classify cigarettes as a Schedule III controlled substance, making them illegal to purchase without a doctor’s prescription, according to Reuters.
Of course, smokers who have trouble kicking the habit still have the option to kick themselves if they voted for Obama in November.