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Cigarette tax hike seen as way to fill Alabama budget gap
AMC's 'Mad Men' and the changing views, roles of cigarettes in America

Alabama smokers now pay 42.5 cents in taxes on each pack of cigarettes they purchase.

If the Yellowhammer State's governor gets his way, those taxes will almost triple.

Gov. Robert Bentley is yet another Republican who has been forced by fiscal realities to consider and even support higher taxes.

One of the easiest routes to higher taxes, regardless of party affiliation, generally comes by hiking taxes that already exist. And many times, such tax increases are in the so-called sin tax category, those habits that are bad for individuals and the states where they live.

Bentley's current budget proposals include just such a sin tax increase. He wants to add an additional 82-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes sold in the state. If accepted by lawmakers and voters, the new tax rate per pack on Alabama smokes would total nearly $1.25.

That proposed Alabama cigarette tax amount also is this week's By the Numbers figure.

Smoking Mad Men: The cigarette tax topic also deserves attention today because the final episodes of Mad Men, AMC's acclaimed television series nominally about the advertising industry, start tonight. 

Mad Men (and ol' blog) fans know that while taxes have occasionally come up in the show -- high, compared to today, tax rates on highly-paid executives and capital gains on home sales in the 1960s -- smoking has always played a huge role.

GiphySmoking Don Draper courtesy Giphy

In its premiere episode, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, anti-hero ad man Don Draper struggles to come up with a slogan for his firm's biggest client, Lucky Strike cigarettes.

In season four's Blowing Smoke, the reconstituted Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency has lost the Lucky Strike account and is rebuffed by Phillip Morris in its effort to replace one cigarette maker with another. That leads Don, and I can call him Don because I've been watching since the get-go back in 2007, to publicly denounce tobacco advertising via a full-page ad in the New York Times entitled "Why I’m Quitting Tobacco."

Although his colleagues are confused and angry with Don's unilateral anti-smoking ad, it leads to possible work with the American Cancer Society, which wants to discuss creating an anti-smoking campaign with SCDP, where most of the employees are avidly chain-smoking. But hey, business is business.

Will Don et al still be puffing away tonight and the through the final seven episodes of its seventh season? You bet.

NBC News says that to date in the series, 942 cigarettes have been smoked, along with 18 marijuana joints. Back in 2010, Whirled posted a YouTube video of, up to that point, a video of all the cigarettes smoked on Mad Men.

Given how smoking has permeated the show, both visually and in story lines, I wouldn't be surprised to see the series' final shot be Don walking away, cancer stick in hand.

Advertising's changing faces: As we wait for tonight's show, this infographic provides a look at Mad Men and Women now and then.

Mad Men infographic by theOnSwitch via DailyInfographic
Mad Men infographic by theOnSwitch via DailyInfographic

My wishes for the show's characters? I'm torn about Don. He's done some good, but a lot of bad, but then so have most of the characters.

Mainly I just want Peggy and Joan to have happy endings. I could live with a new ad agency (spin-off, AMC?) run by these two women who made their important marks and contributions in the ad age dominated by men.

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