Smoking kills, but it also funds education in Nevada

Gather around, kids. Look away from your smartphones for a moment. I have something important to tell you.

It’s about smoking. Specifically, cigarette smoking.

You need you to start.

Just a pack a day, two if you’re an overachiever. But from the look of our public school test scores, most of you can get by with just one pack.

That’s a mere 20 measly coffin nails every 24 hours. Do the math: That’s less than one cigarette every 60 minutes.

You’ve probably read about the dangers of smoking. Medical experts say it causes throat and lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and myriad other maladies. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from smoking-related illness.

So, granted, there’s a downside.

But I say it’s time you prove the experts wrong and take up smoking. Just a pack a day, remember.

When you think about it, you will find it’s really in your best interests. Because the taxes generated from cigarette sales provide a substantial part of Nevada’s public school budget.

Although smoking kills, it also helps fund your education. So light up, and become enlightened.

In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Brian Sandoval suggested a number of reforms to our public education system. He also called for additional funding in the biennial budget to boost our sagging public schools. In addition to making permanent a tax that has been on the ledger the past decade, he offered a plan to expand business license fees to generate an additional $400 million. He also called for a tax increase on cigarettes that is projected to cough up an additional $90 million.

The expanded business license fees tax is guaranteed to be in the gun sights of conservative legislators and business community lobbyists. On the other side, some of Sandoval’s more controversial suggestions to change the education system promise to be hotly contested by liberal legislators and teachers union advocates.

Unless there’s a level of negotiation for dollars and services rarely seen in Carson City outside a cathouse, the odds are good Sandoval’s lofty $400 million thought will be dramatically reduced. Maybe it won’t materialize at all.

That leaves us back at the corner of Winston Avenue and Marlboro Boulevard. But with not as many adults smoking as in previous generations, and millions being spent on anti-smoking messages in the media, someone has to pick up the slack.

That someone is you, my young friends.

Every last one of you. And don’t think you’re let off the hook just because you’re only a third-grader. Why, Huck Finn smoked a pipe when he was that age. Lighting up a Lucky Strike during recess shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Despite what you may have heard in civics class, when it comes to funding education, Nevada’s state motto is, “Puff, puff, puff until we raise enough.”

Just a pack a day. And remember future Rhodes Scholars, you don’t have to inhale unless you want to.

You say this is an insane request. You wonder whether the columnist has taken leave of his senses.

I say look at the facts. This is how we help fund public schools. And in recent history, hiking the cigarette tax has been the only sure thing at the Legislature.

So if you want to be part of the solution, you’ll join the fight. If you want to help make a healthy addition to our school funding, you’ll pick up an unhealthy habit.

Cigarettes kill, but the key is to smoke only until you’re 18 — longer if you plan to attend college. Then quit if you can. Cigarettes, not school.

Once you’ve helped contribute to the tax base by taking this admittedly circuitous route through your respiratory system, you can breathe a sigh of relief with diploma in hand.

And if that breath is somewhat labored, consider it a small price to pay for a quality education in Nevada.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail him at or call 702-383-0295.


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