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A smoker's dilemma

Tax increases have created an enormous amount of resentment among smokers, who feel that they are being treated unfairly.

In response to the Perspective column written by Declan McCullagh"The Massachusetts Internet tax mystery":

Declan McCullagh's Nov. 10 article was excellent and fair-minded. McCullagh, however, did not address one important side effect of the incredible escalation in cigarette taxes over the past 10 years. While the increases have had very little effect on teen smoking (it's gone down a bit, but supposedly that's because of bans and antismoking funding) they have created an enormous amount of tax resentment among smokers, who feel that they are being treated unfairly.

The arguments that such taxes are fair due to societal health costs fall apart when one looks at actual studies (see the New England Journal of Medicine's Oct. 9, 1997, issue, for example) that show long-term health costs actually increasing if everyone stopped smoking due to increased geriatric care costs and such.

Smokers are now being left with only one way to fight for fairness, and many of them have indeed taken the route of tax cheating and tax avoidance. The IRS has recently become aware of this increasing trend and has expressed great concern over the threat to the voluntary tax system on which so much of America's budget depends.

Americans are willing to pay their fair share. Unfairly target a helpless and unorganized minority too harshly, and the results are not what anyone would want.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains."