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News: Upcoming Referendums Threaten Cigar Rights

18 Oct 2012



If you’re concerned about the tyranny of the majority—and cigar smokers should be since we are the minority—then there is no greater danger than the referendum, that popularity contest that bypasses the legislative process for a quick “yea” or “nay” headcount.

We don’t have anything like it at the national level (be thankful for that), but state and local governments often employ referendums to enact policies. California is a national leader in policy-by-referendum (and also a leader in individual liberty abuses). Some of you will recall when, in early June, Californians headed to the polls to vote on Prop. 29, a measure that would have increased already-high cigar taxes in the Golden State by a whopping 73%, crushed cigar shops statewide, and paved the way for similar tax hikes in other states. While that measure was ultimately defeated by a razor-thin margin, the referendum threat looms large for cigar smokers in California and beyond.

That threat is very real right now in North Dakota and Missouri, two states that are taking advantage of the upcoming election to enable their citizens to vote away cigar rights. In North Dakota, a statewide smoking ban with no exemption for cigar shops is at stake. The outlook is bleak, according to the NBC affiliate in Bismarck, which is projecting a solid 62% to 35% split in favor of the law that would criminalize indoor smoking in virtually all “public” places. “CRA will be spreading the word through shop owners like Todd Pryor of Great Plains Smoke Shop that this referendum is an affront to small business, property rights, and the patrons his shop serves,” said J. Glynn Loope of Cigar Rights of America.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, Prop. B will increase the state tax on cigars by 15% if passed. We’re told the increased revenue will be earmarked for education and smoking cessation programs, but critics point to the ability of politicians to re-appropriate the funds. “CRA stands with state legislators like Missouri State Senator Jim Lembke of St. Louis, who opposes the tobacco tax increase,” said Loope.

In an “Action Alert” email, Loope re-emphasizes the threat of tyranny of the majority: “If you’re in Missouri or North Dakota, rally your cigar brethren for the November 6 election to defeat these measures…Both referendums need to be soundly defeated, but it is a very challenging task. It’s simple math, which is why our opponents like referendums. There are more of them than us.”

-Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

Drew Estate