Many fuming over smokers buying cigarettes with ‘welfare’ money - 434 responses

Jul 12, 2012

Few things get people as fired up as cigarette smoking, but a majority of Granite Staters seem to agree on at least one thing: If you're one of the estimated 17 percent of New Hampshire residents who smoke, do it on your own dime.

Prompted by the headline-grabbing dismissal of an Antrim convenience store clerk who refused to allow a customer to buy cigarettes with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, we asked our Facebook followers whether New Hampshire should change the law, which allows such purchases.

Like a debit card that accesses money from a bank account, the EBT system lets government aid recipients use their EBT card to buy products. In addition to food aid via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), EBT cards also afford access to cash benefits via the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The latter program is what enables the purchase of non-food items -- including alcohol and cigarettes.

To our question "Should NH continue to allow the purchase of beer and cigarettes with EBT cards?" as of July 5, 2012, we had received a record-breaking 434 total responses, including 113 concurrences (or "likes," in Facebook parlance) and 321 comments from 224 respondents. By a ratio of nearly 9-to-1, our Facebook followers said it's time to change the law to bar the purchase of alcohol and cigarettes with EBT cards. Of the total of unique responses, 176 (or 79.6 percent) endorsed changing the law, while only 20 (8.9 percent) favor the status quo. 

One respondent typical of the majority wrote: "Food is a necessity, alcohol and tobacco are not. ... Paying for any nonessential items takes resources away from where they are really needed."

Another 77 respondents were judged off-topic or expressing an impossible-to-discern opinion.

The aforementioned findings are not scientific, but more akin to citizen testimony, where respondents are (to the greatest extent possible) identifiable by their real names. As New Hampshire's Town Hall, the LFDA is free and open to all, offering a unique and important mechanism for more than 10,000 community members to express their views.
And, while public officials are guided by their own perspectives on the issues, it's clear the majority of New Hampshire citizens are burned up about people buying alcohol and cigarettes with EBT cards.

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