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Quote of the Day - It has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain when awake. - Mark Twain

Taxing Tobacco To Tie Tongues?

Is it legal to tax a business and then use that tax money to discourage people to buy from that business?

Apparently so.

California has a tax that takes money from the $0.87 per pack tax from R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard Tobacco Company, and then uses that tax money to run anti-smoking advertisements.

The tobacco companies don't like the government spending their money to advocate quiting smoking. They claim it violates their First Amendment rights. But the Ninth Circuit didn't agree. "The implication of the tobacco companies' argument is that industries subject to an excise tax are entitled to a special veto over government speech funded by the tax," said Judge Raymond C. Fisher. The Court split, and ruled 2-1 in favor of California.

The dissent in the case started its argument with a quote from Thomas Jefferson (who I frequently quote here). The quote read: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical." The tobacco companies agreed with dissenter Judge Trott.

You're right. This isn't the end of the story. You can be sure they'll be an appeal to the Supreme Court, challenging the Ninth Circuit's ruling.

Tobacco wants to regulate the government's speech, and the government wants to regulate tobacco's sales. What do the rest of us want? Some want to smoke, and others don't want to - and don't want others to smoke, either.

The First Amendment says I can say what I want - and I usually do here. But there are many instances of the government limiting what can't be said. Now the Supreme Court will have to determine whether the government can use our money to argue against our own speech.

Next thing you know, the government will use my tax money to start a blog.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on 9/29/2004 at 09:00 Comments (0)


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