What a terrific setup.
Need money? Increase the cigarette tax with the ironic excuse that this is to get smokers to quit when you know not many of them will.
The federal government alone makes $1.01 a pack from smokers.
States now average $1.45 a pack.
Add in the tobacco settlement - a de facto tax on smokers - and you have smokers shelling out $3 a pack just in taxes.
R.J. Reynolds estimated its profits are 30 cents a pack.
So when I see these anti-smoking commercials and editorial page cartoons denouncing big tobacco companies, I wonder why they do not show the politicians greedily using their profits from cigarettes to buy golf carts in New York, metal detectors for schools in Alabama and the operating costs for a horse park in North Carolina.
That is how some of the tobacco tax money is spent, according to R.J. Reynolds, which obviously has an interest in the matter.
I would rather see more of the money go to lung cancer research.
We should be able to get the five-year survival rate up from 15 percent to, say, the 86 percent rate for breast cancer.
But no one is holding any races for the cure and they do not have football players wear yellow helmets - for the color of a smoker's fingers - during Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Smokers are to be reviled, not aided.
For besides the money, there is a psychological reason we need smokers in America: They make good punching bags.
One of the reasons I and most other people beat up on that congressman from New York who sent that vulgar picture to the college student was that it made me feel better about myself.
I have done a lot of dumb things, but I have not done anything that dumb. Therefore, I am superior.
And so we will continue to vilify smokers, shun them, and send them outside to indulge their filthy habit.
We need the money - and the self-satisfaction of being "better" than someone else.