Monday, April 2, 2012

Extremely Gross National Product

As disgusting as the Gentlemen's Agreement between these buzzards is, it's certainly no more repugnant than the appalling symbiotic relationship between the Tobacco Industry and the Government, which last week rolled out a huge new anti-smoking campaign based on showing graphic and disturbing pictures of smokers who have paid the consequences of their habit.

The $54 million ad campaign features images which are striking, to put it mildly. People viewing television, print media, and billboards will now be treated to full color close-ups of laryngectomies, stroke victims, heart patients, people with livid, disfiguring mouth and throat tumors, and - just for good measure - plenty of stumps from missing limbs.

But will the horrific - and expensive - ads actually cut down on smoking? After just one week, the Government is already bragging that calls to the phone number featured in the ads have doubled. They do not, however, say how many of those calls are from people trying to kick the habit - and how many are from angry parents of traumatized kids who've just gotten an eyeful of a woman whose toes have rotted off.

Moreover, cigarette manufactures actually used to deliberately (albeit subtly) insert death imagery into their ads under the belief that the "grim reaper factor" actually increased the dangerous appeal of smoking.

But surely the Government, which loves us and wants us all to get free medical treatment, is sincere in its efforts to stop smoking, right?

Ummm - probably not.

Because as any drug cartel can tell you, there's a lot of money to be made when selling highly addictive substances to the masses. Which is why the Government essentially made itself a partner to the Tobacco Industry (rather than shutting it down) so it could share the largesse. In 2009, the Feds raked in a sweet $8.5 billion in cigarette taxes, and the cash-strapped states pulled in almost $16 billion more. Suddenly, that token $54 million in anti-smoking ads seems like a drop in the bucket.

But the benefits to the Government don't stop there! As HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius recently pointed out, 443,000 Americans die every year from smoking-related causes. And by wild coincidence, those same 443,000 Americans will not be around to drain funds (if there were any) from Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. Ka-ching!

Still, no matter whether they're sincere or not, the stomach-churning new ads will surely convince at least a few people to give up their potentially deadly habit. Or maybe not - because the world's smartest man, Barack Obama, surely knows all the dangers of smoking but does it anyway.

But in fairness, maybe he just does it to give us Hope...

If this isn't coming soon to a billboard near you, it SHOULD be.


Angry Hoosier Dad said...

Three points:
Giving up cigarettes was the hardest thing I've ever done (my wife was the smart one - she never started).
There is a difference between wishing death on a US president and not giving a rat's ass if it should happen. Both are probably sinful but it's a matter of degree.
I still believe the number one way to keep kids away from cigarettes and other drugs is parental involvement and absolute honesty about the good and bad in them and why people get involved. An intelligent child will reason this out and make a good decision. Thank God, we were blessed with an intelligent child.

Emmentaler Limburger said...

Just another creative way to tax an industry out of business - because taxes, fees, regulations, and forced programs are nothing more.

Even though Ă˜bama is addicted, he likely fears the consequences, but - like a good democrat - blames he tobacco industry for his actions, and sees putting them out of business as his means to quitting.

Frankly, I'd love to see his image on the side of a cigarette carton, bags in hand, boarding for a one-way trip back to Kenya. I'd buy a carton or two just for that image...

Pete(Detroit) said...

Having been a "light" smoker (pack a week, or so) for ages I'd frequently "quit" for a month or three, but get sucked back in. Then last fall, I got some kind of bronchitis, or something. Had ONE, and spent 20 min gasping like a fish out of water. The choice was clear, I could smoke or I could breathe. That was EASY.

Then again, it isn't ALWAYS fatal...

Earl said...

My father was a smoker who died of lung cancer. He also worked with some very nasty solvents in his job calibrating jet engines. Who's to say what caused the cancer? My fear is that if Obamacare passes, a "panel of experts" will be making decisions about who "deserves" cancer treatment and who doesn't. People react differently to just about everything from environmental exposure, to medication, to treatments, etc. Obamcare will destroy the doctor/patient relationship and replace it with crony healthcare. The billboards of the future will hold the elderly responsible for the cost of health care. Whose really pushing them off the cliff?

CenTexTim said...

Taxes on cigarettes, at least in part, encourage people to quit smoking.

Taxes on income, at least in part, encourage people to quit working.

Wait ...what...?

Emmentaler Limburger, re: your point about obama continuing to smoke despite knowing the consequences - that's no different than obama or any other politician going for immediate gratification and not worrying about long-term effects.

Pete (Detroit) said...

Two other results of higher tobacco taxes - 1) increase purchase of Indian grown tobacco (no Fed taxes, last I knew) and 2) bootlegging

Amazing how attitude changes when "instant gratification" goes from 'head rush' to 'next breath'...

John the Econ said...

I've always argued that it was shrill brilliance on the part of the tobacco industry to make the Federal government their partner. Instead of facing extinction, they're now mutually dependent beneficiaries that get to play both sides of the morality card.

There are two reasons to smoke; because you're insecure and want to look "cool" or because you're an addict. Both reasons are idiotic and sad.

If the President really wanted to impress me, he'd quit. I doubt he's capable. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest addictions to break. Kudos to those of you who have done it.

Not that I really wish to bring up the abortion debate, I do have this question for liberals: Why is it okay to show disgusting pictures of the consequences of smoking, but not what happens during a late-term abortion?

Yes @CenTexTim, liberals actually are capable of understanding the relatively simple concept of "elasticity of demand" when it comes to "sin taxes" on things like cigarettes, alcohol or gasoline. And yet, they can't seem to apply those seemingly understood concepts to other aspects of economics, like "working".

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Angry Hoosier Dad- Their are teams of scientists employed by the tobacco industry who try to ensure that it will be hard (if not impossible) for many people to quit smoking. I applaud you for having the strength.

Regarding the death of a president, I absolutely agree that no one should ever wish it - and I don't wish it for Obama. But I'd be less than truthful if I didn't admit to being in the "I don't give a rat's ass" category when it comes to him putting himself in harm's way. Let's just say that when it comes to smoking, I respect his right to make that choice and leave it at that.

And you're right that good parenting is the surest protection against the tobacco habit. And most of society's other ills.

@Emmentaler- The Government could easily tax tobacco out of existence if that's what they wanted. Instead, I think they're just trying to get as much money as possible from smokers without quite giving them the final financial incentive to quit.

And you make a good point about Obama and other Democrats: they believe that everyone should have choices, but no one should be responsible for the ones they actually make.

@Pete(Detroit)- Glad you got a warning shot over the bow instead of taking a hit at the waterline.

And that YouTube link is a good one!

@Earl- I'm sorry for your loss. You raise an excellent point that in the future (the near future if the SCOTUS doesn't strike down Obamacare), government panels will be scrutinizing your every lifestyle choice to see how they can justify denial of meaningful medical treatment. There simply is no financial model that would allow them to do anything else. Many such judgements will be wrong and life-threatening (indeed, life-ending). But there will be no appeal process.

@CenTexTim- He shoots! He scores! Taxes are routinely used for social engineering, and the so-called "sin" taxes are all based on the simple truth that "you tax what you want LESS of." It's a punishment and disincentive. But that's no less true when it comes to taxing income, innovation, and productivity.

Good point about immediate gratification vs long term consequences, too!

@Pete(Detroit)- If it wasn't for unintended consequences, the Obama administration would be of almost no consequence at all.

@John the Econ- I've always looked at the Government "settlement" with Big Tobacco as a devil's deal. As you point out, they stopped being adversaries and instead formed a partnership. And last time I checked, our Washington DC druglords were upping their share of the take by making it legal for American tobacco companies to sell products overseas that are more addictive than the those allowed for U.S. sale. It's all about the money. Bastards.

And good point drawing the comparison to abortion. The so-called "War on Women" is largely about the torture inflicted on a woman who is asked to look at a black and white sonogram image while considering her personal choices. How is that more cruel than forcing smokers (and everyone else, for that matter) to look at open stoma, missing tongues, and oral tumors?

Pete(Detroit) said...

"No consequence" indeed - HARF!!!

Colby said...

"Shhh!! Pipe down, you people! Michelle thinks I quit smoking... cigarettes... and that other stuff too. And ix-nay on talking about the urgers-bay!"

John the Econ, I hear ya on the billboards. the libs here in "ter-bacca" country are freaking the hell out because our congress passed a bill requiring a sonogram to be viewed by women considering abortions. Their heads would explode if you put up a billboard that showed the grisly reality of a late term abortion!

Libs love to tell you about how high their standards are. Why, I'll bet their standards are twice as high... you know... like maybe even DOUBLE standards.

John the Econ said...

An aside: Does it occur to anyone else how absurd the "Earth Hour" really is? Amongst the eco-correct, the last Saturday of March each year has what is known as the “Earth Hour”, where hundreds of world landmarks from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to the Great Wall of China go dark for an hour, part of a global effort to highlight climate change. A whole hour.

If “global warming” is as dire a threat as these people argue it is and is indeed caused by our excessive use of energy, then why are these world monuments lit up like Christmas trees in the first place? They should be made permanently dark as to set an example for the rest of us. (and as a demonstration of what the future holds for a society under their agenda) I think most people would take that a bit seriously that an annual 60-minute PR event. Doing anything otherwise is just another example of how the elites believe that “sacrifice” is for the rest of us to make, as they go about their own business as usual.

Colby said...

John the Econ,
The elites would LOVE to make us all into mushrooms; that is, keep us in the dark and feed us shit.

Whatcha wanna bet Al Gore's private jet uses more energy in one trip that is used to light the Brandenburg Gate all year long? Of course, your average "anti-energy" goofball is too young to remember what the Brandenburg Gate was and what it stands for. Then again, if they knew it stood for Communism, they might want to light it up during the day, too.

Anonymous said...

Remember the great State Attorney General's lawsuit against smoking in the 1990's? Was that money used to stop smoking? Hell no. In Virginia 50% of the payout went to subsidize tobacco farmers. DC they sold it as an annuity and gave a one time bonus to government workers.

The government doesn't want you to stop smoking, they want the taxes. This latest advertising folly is geared towards demonizing smoking further with the non-smoking public, so the gov't can put more taxes on it!

Colby said...

You have said a mouthful there!

I forget which Senator/Congressman it was that suggested temporarily dropping the federal gasoline tax to give us schmucks a break. You could almost hear the gasps of shock from the lefties and tree huggers. They know damn well that a "temporary" suspension could turn permanent, and we sure as hell could have THAT!

Emmentaler Limburger said...

@John: EXCELLENT indication of the left's hypocrisy.

BTW: Anyone else see the furor over NBC having edited the Zimmerman 911 call to take out the part where the dispatcher asked for Trayvon's race? How widely do you bet THAT will be reported? Neat that they get to "internally investigate" rather than being ridden up the rails for inciting racial violence.

Then, of course, this: The former makes me wonder if ABC's original version wasn't digitally enhanced to eliminate the evidence of injury, and this "digitally enhanced" version isn't the original. After all, NBC got caught...

CenTexTim said...

@Emmentaler Limburger: NBC has a long and proud tradition of selectively editing their 'news' programs to reflect their world-view. Remember the faked GM pickup fires?

However, we shouldn't pick exclusively on NBC. CBS fell victim to the Dan Rather school of journalism with their reporting on the bogus Texas National Guard memos regarding George W. Bush's service (Rather: the memos were "fake, but accurate"). And now it appears that ABC played fast and loose with the Zimmerman video tape.

Gosh, if you can't trust NBC, CBS, and ABC, who can you trust...?

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Pete(Detroit) - Harf, indeed!

@Colby- I love your concept that "Double Standards are Twice as High." The Dems should pay you to use that on campaign bumper stickers!

@John the Econ- I think these "symbolic" one-hour gestures show that the underlying issues are, themselves, more symbolic than substantive. "Earth Hour" isn't really about anything than a critique of industrialized nations and (surprise) capitalism.

@Colby- Al Gore has a long and rich history of leaving a MUCH bigger carbon footprint than is justified. He wants to save the world, but he damn well won't do it for free - or in anything less than first-class luxury.

@Anonymous- I'm convinced that (whores that they are) the Government wants to keep their tobacco revenue flowing. So why the ads? In giving it some additional thought, I think this is part of the "long game" to start reinforcing the notion that smokers are bad people who made bad choices despite having plenty of information - all so the public will be receptive to the idea of smokers getting turned away by Obamacare when the chits hit the fan.

@Colby- By waiving the gas taxes, the Government could drop prices at the pump tomorrow. Would it be irresponsible? Sure! But no more so than allowing people to skip paying their social security so they can enjoy that "extra $40 per paycheck" that the Bamster won't shut up about.

@Emmentaler- The editing of the Zimmerman tape is practically criminal (and if violence starts, may be criminal in actuality). NBC tried to create a racist in the audio editing suite, and damn near got away with it. And as you point out, ABC declared flatly that Zimmerman had NO injuries when he was brought in by the police...but now admits that, well, yeah, he appears to have a significant head wound. And - oh yeah - the paramedics spent quite awhile cleaning him up before those videos were taken, and wrote up Zimmerman's injuries at the time.

There is a deliberate, concerted effort by the MSM to ramp up a race war in time for Obama's reelection campaign. And the fact that we all knew it was coming doesn't make it any less sickening.

@CenTexTim- Personally, I still trust the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. is a great resource, too. I tend to trust the news that I get on FOX (Bret Baier's show, especially) while ignoring the opinions of Fox's other talking heads. But at least FOX NEWS tries to draw an actual line between their news coverage and their commentary.

Colby said...

That picture of "Doctor Phibes" Obama blowing smoke out of his neck is damn scary, especially after I thought about how much smoke he had been blowing up our butts for 4+ years!

And today he's whining about the SCOTUS; trying to intimidate them or something. Geez-O-Pete, Barry! It is NOT unconstiutional for the SCOTUS to toss out unconstitutional legislation! They have been doing this for 220+ years. And this knucklehead taught Constitutional Law?

John the Econ said...

Again @Colby, Obama doesn't say such silly things because he actually believes them or because there is any truth to them. He says them because he's playing down to his base which knows about as much about Constitutional jurisprudence as my dog. That's going to be the strategy for 2012: It's not his fault; it's "the man" in the robe.

Perhaps that is his grand plan; provoke a Constitutional crisis out of thin air.

Same goes for the silly comments he made about Reagan today; that today's GOP would reject Reagan because today's GOP is way to far to the right! Romney is to the right of Reagan? Yeah. His base will eat that up, but only because they are completely clueless.

But the irony? Obama is smart enough to know that people highly respect Reagan. He's just glad that he doesn't have to run against him.

Suzy said...

Waiiiiiiit, wait, wait, wait.....

So....let me get this straight.

Its okay for the government to show gross, disgusting pictures of people dying of lung cancer to discourage smoking.


People who put up gross, disgusting pictures of aborted babies are required to remove them, because they are too disturbing?


That makes ME wanna puke.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Colby- The neck, hands, hole, and smoke in my Photoshopped effort are all from one of the Government's actual ads.

And if you're honked off by Barry's attack on the SCOTUS, you'll enjoy tomorrow's cartoon and commentary on this very topic.

@John the Econ- You'll notice that Abraham Lincoln never said "you can't fool all the Democrats all of the time." Because Obama can and does. I'm not sure if ignorance is really bliss, but it sure as heck translates easily into votes.

@Suzy- When you think of it, which is actually more gross and disgusting: a terribly disfigured person (as in the Government ads) or a terribly disfigured cluster of cells (as the Libs describe fetuses)? By their claimed standards, an aborted fetus should be no more offensive for them to view than an egg frying in a skillet.

But pictures of fetuses are disturbing, because no one - including a Liberal - can look at them and deny that there is significance and meaning attached to the actions which deliberately started and ended that small life.

Pete(Detroit) said...

And there would be the diff b/n a "fetus" and an "undifferentiated cell mass" - and, as w/ Mr. S's famous cat, Where *do* we draw the line?
Two zygotes? Even the Catholic church says "Not a person - yet".

Delivered Baby? Nearly everyone (except O, etc) says "Person"

In the middle? Um, errrrr....

Just sayin' (and, personally, am all FOR ultrasound. If it "looks" like anything more than a fish or a lizard, Mom might want to think twice.
Not that I EVER met someone that actually HAD an abortion (and seemed like EVERYONE I knew for a few years) who didn't have nightmares about it...

Wow, from smokes to abortion, you cover the whole gamut Stilt (it's part of why I love ya!)

Suzy said...

LOL, sorry Pete (and Stilt), my fault to derail the topic...but I get so angry at the hypocrisy in our government.

Allowing "yucky" pictures of smokers dying and disallowing "yucky" abortion pictures is the ultimate in hypocrisy.

If we're going to warn people visually, then lets warn them visually. Picking and choosing what warnings are "allowed" is hypocrisy and is dangerous in some cases for those not being warned. (Well, okay, in ALL cases, for the babies...)

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Pete(Detroit)- I'm sure that it's emotionally difficult for a woman to look at an ultrasound of the fetus she's about to abort...and I'm fine with that. Unlike some, I'm not in favor of making all abortions illegal...but I darn well want to make sure that the process can't be undertaken lightly or without thought of the consequences. Which is exactly what the Government claims to be doing with their Grand Guignol anti-smoking horror show.

And yeah, we DO cover a lot of ground around here, don't we?

@Suzy- Hey, you didn't derail the topic, you made a valid association and a good point!

pryorguy said...

Wow, I am watching a VERY angry barack obama on tv in response to Paul Ryan's budget, he looks so presidential with his eyes bugged out and his chin up in defiance! I do believe he is beginning to unravel with his rage as unreasonaable people always do when they think they see the writing on the wall.

I hope and pray that many many Americans have seen his vision for America and it is enough, along with gas prices, unemployment, the national debt, Obamacare, etc., to make them consider the fact that he is NOT the anointed One after all!