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Growing up in the 1990s, there were cigarette ads everywhere. I can plainly recall the dazzling young women who showed off the fact that they were smoking a Misty Light on the back of my mother’s endless supply of home and garden magazines. I remember Joe Camel at the pool, playing a mammal who wore sunglasses and was always suavely dressed. And oh, how I remember the Marlboro Man – that handsome guy on horseback who just happened to always have his picture taken in the middle of he desert – firing one up.
In 2009, these once famous figures can no longer be seen. Joe Camel was banned in 1997 when some people got this crazy idea that more kids recognized the hip camel than Mickey Mouse; and I guess all that’s left of the Marlboro Man are his boots and spurs.
Smokers and the cigarette industry have always been targeted for the obvious reasons. But on April 1, the Kentucky cigarette tax increased by 30 cents to 60 cents. The federal tax also increased about 62 cents to $1.01 per pack.
I won’t deny the many harmful things that cigarettes and tobacco products can cause, but I’m also aware that every person in America who does light one up knows the potential risk they’re taking. As a smoker myself, you can rest assured that I know how stupid it is of me to continue smoking.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products, however, are completely legal – smoking is a choice and a right.
Apparently, what our legislators and senators do not realize is the danger they’re creating for tobacco farmers.
Before the tobacco buyout of 2004, each tobacco farmer was allotted a certain number of pounds they could raise. After the buyout, those who decided to continue raising tobacco could raise however many pounds they desired.
During the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard of several small tobacco farmers, including my family, who signed up to raise a certain amount of pounds, and with no fair warning, had their pounds cut.
There are farmers all over Kentucky who rely on one crop for their year to year income, tobacco. By raising the tax on tobacco products, warehouses fear that many people will quit smoking and are blaming the tax increase for their decision to cut pounds.
This decision will mainly affect the small tobacco farmer. Men and women across Kentucky who have full-time jobs, but rely on their small acreage of tobacco as a source of extra income to carry them through the year.
I understand the difficulties the United States is facing, as well as the commonwealth of Kentucky – but by raising the cigarette tax, senators and legislators are only putting small tobacco farmers in even worse financial situations.
With the tax increase, I will have to call it quits; and while I know it will be beneficial for me in the future, I’ll be thinking of the small Kentucky tobacco farmer – struggling to make it through another year.