On July 1st, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act goes into effect. In theory, this law makes it more difficult for organized crime and terrorists to sell tobacco products on the black market and helps “protect the children.” The reality is that PACT bans shipping tobacco products (excluding cigars) by US Mail and mandates that online sellers validate proof of age at the time of sale and collect applicable state and federal taxes. It also requires that shippers like UPS verify the age of the recipient on delivery. In effect, what PACT does is make it nearly impossible to turn a profit on selling cigarette alternatives without pricing yourself out of the US market. In effect, PACT protects the American tobacco industry from foreign competition and encourages those who smoke to continue doing so by making safer alternatives much more difficult, much more expensive, or altogether impossible to procure.
This troubles me not just because I oppose taxes on a philosophical basis, but also because it was several of these alternative products that helped me put down my last cigarette a month ago tomorrow. When electronic cigarettes proved to lack the requisite “kick” I needed, I did what most good historians do and got busy with the research. Fortunately, I found several forums that led me to Swedish snus.
In Sweden, it’s regulated as a food product and despite 40 years of ongoing studies in that country, they have not been able to link snus with an elevated risk of cancer. Because it’s steam pasteurized instead of smoke cured (they way American tobacco is processed), the tobacco used for snus is basically the textbook definition of a “safer” alternative. It caries a warning label here in the States because the U.S. government doesn’t quite know how to regulate it… and before PACT, they were losing tobacco tax revenue to the small, but growing user base who ordered their product directly from Sweden.
Those days are coming to a close and I’ve laid on a stockpile large enough to see me through at least the next two years without much trouble. After that, Uncle is going to make sure to get his cut and this safer alternative is most likely going to remain undiscovered by the vast majority of people who ever consider having a go at quitting. It’s a shame, really. There’s every chance that I’ll never be stopped for good, but for now I’m (mostly) proof that the alternatives can work… even when you’re not planning on it.