"You gotta cigarette?"
It wasn't the first time I had been asked, but since I have done a lot of silly things to my body and stll never managed to work smoking cigarettes into that list, I could answer easily: "No."
That's when the circumstances of this particular request began to stack up on me. The woman who asked me seemed a little put out by my answer, even though it was just past six in the morning. It was still dark out. I was also riding past on my bicycle, which might have made for an easy inference that I wouldn't be indulging in that vice if only for the duration of my ride. It occurred to me just how fierce this addiction must be to be asking what seemed like a ridiculous question.
At seven dollars for a pack of twenty, that makes each one of those coffin nails worth thirty-five cents. I am not above that kind of charity, but since it comes with that unique back end of being a cause for cancer, I really don't know if I would be helping anyone out by giving them a cigarette. That's part of the reason why there are all those taxes on cigarettes, partly to make them so expensive that anyone in their right mind would never choose to start smoking. And maybe, anyone who had already started smoking would stop because it was just too darn expensive. In the meantime, all that tax revenue can go toward curing the health damages wreaked on lungs and gums and tongues via all that smoke.
Did you worry about Philip Morris going out of business? Don't. They're fine. Which made me wonder about this Soda Tax that we are about to vote on here in Oakland. If I had to pay a penny an ounce more for a bottle or can of Coca-Cola, would I keep drinking it? I might, if I hadn't already given it up for other medical reasons, but it sure does have my soda-swilling son up in arms. The days of cannon-balling twenty ounce bottles of Coke may be coming to an end, or at least they will become less frequent. The level of high-fructose corn syrup may go down as a simple act of economics, if not common sense.
Would I feel the same way if a few kidney stones hadn't put the kibosh on my soda intake at the beginning of this year? Do I really need big government getting in the way of my sugary drink consumption? Will I be riding to work next fall and hear someone call out of the shadows, "Hey, can I bum a can of Pepsi?"