Jon Caldara

Jon Caldara

Of all the many statewide questions on this year’s ballot none is more downright hateful than Prop EE.

There are many policy reasons to vote against this massive tobacco and vaping tax. But there is a larger moral reason too. It’s just plain bigoted and goes against every liberal value of tolerance, inclusion and diversity.

How odd that at this time of awareness of discrimination against minorities, progressives want to tax political, economic and even racial minorities.

Prop EE is intolerant to people who have a lifestyle a majority of Americans now find disgusting and perverted – smoking.

It wasn’t that long ago that homosexual activity was a criminal offense, the perversity of the act and the lifestyle deemed too sick and harmful to society.

Of course, today we rightly see that old attitude as hateful and intolerant. Now not only is homosexual activity protected, so is gay marriage. Smoking has replaced it as the modern unholiness.

During the debate over decriminalizing homosexuality and gay marriage mountains of research on both sides was created arguing over the costs to society of the lifestyle. The AIDS epidemic made the “cost” arguments of health care very real.

While the anti-smoking lobby won’t admit it, studies shows smokers save society in health care and retirement cost for the sad reason they die earlier.

Ultimately it wasn’t arguments over health-care costs or perceived threats to the family structure (and therefore the decay of society) that brought a conclusion to the homosexual debate. The gay community made the case that though they are a small minority, the American sense of freedom means their activity and their relationships deserve protection, even if a majority of Americans found it distasteful and wrong for themselves.

Yes, I get it. No one is born a smoker. You might be born gay or born into the wrong gender but having gay sex or dressing like a woman is an activity, a lifestyle. So is smoking.

No one who waves a rainbow flag can vote for Prop EE. How can you persecute one political minority after you have fought to protect other ones?

Few Americans would ever desecrate the American flag, but we understand the First Amendment argument that protects it. Few would ever participate in a neo-Nazi rally, but the ACLU fought for the right for them to parade in Skokie, Illinois.

We protect the rights of political minorities. That is the beautiful liberal value of America. Or at least, it used to be.

Guarantees of freedom are never necessary for practices that are widely accepted. Understanding that people doing something wildly unpopular should still have the right to do it — that’s what freedom is all about.

The healthy fact is only a minority of Americans now smoke or vape. We all can agree smoking is unhealthy, though there is some evidence of benefits including weight control and fighting Alzhiemers (yeah, weird huh?). But aren’t there all sorts of activities where people put themselves at risk, like riding a motorcycle, or worse, riding one without a helmet?

Prop EE hurts another minority, the poor. And don’t buy the fib that poor people smoke more than other classes. They don’t.

According to data from the Colorado Department of Revenue, those who make under $15,000 a year pay the same amount of tobacco tax as those who make over $200,000. The difference is they have less money to pay the tax.

As a percentage of the money they make, the “effective tax rate,” the poor Coloradan pays 51 times more than the wealthy one. Not 51 percent more, 51 times more.

A vote for EE is a middle finger to the poor, largely black and Hispanic. This makes it so interesting that so many progressives and leftist organizations are endorsing EE. Makes one wonder if they are just that tax-hungry or have uncontrollable lust for behavior control over others — you know, for their own good.

To add insult to the poor, Prop EE creates a price floor for cigarettes, making the cost of a budget brand the same cost as a premium brand. It’s like jacking up the price of all Kia cars to the level of Porches. Again, screw the poor.

Say no to hate even if, like me, you don’t smoke. No on Prop EE.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute in Denver and hosts "The Devil's Advocate with Jon Caldara" on Colorado Public Television Channel 12. His column appears Sundays in Colorado Politics.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute in Denver and hosts "The Devil's Advocate with Jon Caldara" on Colorado Public Television Channel 12. His column appears Sundays in Colorado Politics.

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