Is Montana Still “Marlboro Country?”
Some think of Montana as “Marlboro Country” - cowboys riding a horse, moving cattle and smoking a cigarette. Well, that was the image in the 60s and 70s. Today, the love of big tobacco is dying around America. Yes, even in Montana.
Last spring for the first time in 12 years, the Montana Senate tried to rise taxes on cigarettes. Not only cigarettes but e-cigarettes and vaping.
The image of cigarettes and the love affair with tobacco was dead and the new tax would prove it...but it looks like Montana's love of cigarettes may not be so dead after all.
Suddenly the state capital was filled with lobbyists, store owners and residents demanding that the government lawmakers stop. Even the lawmaker who put the law forward was surprised about the big reaction.
Surely Montana must see the evil of the cancer sticks. The rest of America was forcing $2 or $3 taxes on a pack of cigarettes. They were only asking for an extra $1.50 a pack. It's been 12 years since the last time the state asked for more money. A little tax surely would have no trouble becoming law.
No lawmaker was safe. This new tax was wrong. It was anti-American. It was against everything all free-thinking Montanans stand for.
It's 2017, cigarettes were dead, but the pressure was on. Even the Republican House speaker was called upon to stop this assault on freedom.
Is a Montana value the right to have cheap cigarettes? Could the big-in-land but small-in-state stand up the the tobacco companies?
Last month, seven days after passing the Montana Senate, the state's love of freedom and the last few remembrances of us being “Marlboro Country” pulled ahead. The tax died in the House.
(The associated press contributed to this story)
Justin Sullivan, Flickr