Saturday, February 6, 2010

The business at hand

After a productive meeting of The Ozark Pipe Smokers (as productive as a pipe club meeting can be), the club is ready to move forward with its opposition to H.R. 4439. This is posted here both as an informational tool for our members and as inspiration for clubs and other individuals with the same goal elsewhere in the United States.

As a reminder, H.R. 4439 is a proposed resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives that would raise the federal pipe tobacco tax rate 775%. The resolution can be read in its entirety here. It is a short read.
TOPS' immediate goal is to provide form letters allowing local pipe smokers, or smokers of any tobaccos, to sign and send them to their local representatives. The draft letter is as follows. Feel free to suggest any improvements in the comments section.

Representative John Boozman,
I am contacting you today over an issue that is of great importance to me, and I am relying on your continued willingness to aid your constituents.
My concern is with H.R. 4439, the Tobacco Tax Parity Act of 2010, which was introduced Jan. 13, 2010, and would raise the tax on pipe tobacco 775% from $2.8311 to $24.78 per pound. The proposed legislation, introduced by Representatives Steve Cohen (Dem., TN) and Lloyd Doggett (Dem., TX), has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which includes Mr. Doggett among its membership.
I am asking you to vote NO to H.R. 4439.
You are no doubt aware that your constituency is comprised of the salt of the work laborers who bore this country to greatness on their hunched back. Ours is a tradition of labor and sweat, of building strength and character through our work and our leisure. The pipe, more in this state than in many others, is intertwined with our history, with our culture and with our identity. H.R. 4439 would threaten that very way of life.
Under H.R. 4439, pipe smokers could still have their pipes, but filling them with tobacco could become a hardship. A 775% tax increase on pipe tobacco, levied against the working class, would threaten to remove the pipe as a symbol of the hard work and sacrifice that has established Arkansas as the nation's foundation and the United States as the enduring superpower.
Pipe smokers will not be alone in their hardships should H.R. 4439 pass. Retail tobacconists would stand to lose loyal and valuable customers. Many of these valuable small businesses, already suffering due to 2009's tobacco tax increases, would be forced to close their doors, succumbing to a rough economy made worse by unreasonable legislation.
The tax increase would make pipe smokers pay for the sins of others. The $24.78 per pound tax rate was applied to roll-your-own cigarette tobacco, but those selling that product, instead of paying the new tax rates, re-labeled cigarette tobacco as pipe tobacco to take advantage of a lower tax rate.
I do not believe the intent of the legislators, in passing 2009's tobacco tax rates, was to eventually hammer pipe smokers with drastically increased tax rates. The rates, including an increased tax on pipe tobacco, were set for a reason. It would be in the spirit of that legislation to ensure tobacco companies paid the rates the law requires rather than punish those who are already acting within the letter and spirit of the law.

I wish to thank you for your attention to my concerns and for your vote AGAINST H.R. 4439.
Our goal for this letter was to provide a more anecdotal, localized letter that might complement the generalized, fact-based letter being distributed by Pipes Magazine. TOPS hopes to provide these letters to any tobacco retailer in northwest Arkansas willing to distribute them to customers.
The organization's next step will be to approach U.S. Rep. John Boozman and request a meeting. It would be the club's honor to host him at Romeo's Downtown Pipe & Tobacco Co., where the impact of this resolution would be seen most clearly. Assuming the Congressman accepts the invitation, we will provide notice of our meeting with the Congressman, and all members are encouraged to attend. Those who cannot attend can submit comments or questions that will be forwarded to the Congressmen.
Any suggestions on how we can best help our elected officials defeat this tax increase are gratefully received. Thank you to all of you, in Arkansas and around the country, who are working on this issue.


  1. Awesome letter Tom; you definitely have a way with words. As it was the first meeting that I attended, I think it was a very productive meeting and was tons of fun.

    It was a pleasure meeting all of you fine folks this afternoon, and I can't wait to join you all in the next meeting!

    -Lee S.

  2. It was a pleasure to have you there. I'm glad you had a good time.

  3. A great letter, but it is too long and only the first and last paragraph is going to be read. I would send it though. If you are truly serious on fighting this, then I would also suggest the following:

    Find the tax legislative assistant for the Representative and send an email. Will arrive faster and get in the right hands. This may take some investigation, but just call the office and ask for the Tax LA. Better yet, call and ask to speak to the LA and keep calling until you get them on the phone. They are on vacation (district work period) until the 19th I believe though.

    This is the perfect time to schedule a meeting in person at the district office. You will unlikely be able to meet with the representative but should be able to get an appointment with staff. It would be great if you could met with the Rep though.

    Unfortunately, Rep. Boozman does not serve on Ways and Means. You (we) do not want this to make it out of committee. So, I would send letters to all the Tax LAs on the committee.

    I hope this helps and good luck!!