BEST VILLAIN - 2006
Don't call it a comeback because it never went away, but smoking got more local press this year than at any time since the state of Minnesota sued the tobacco companies back in 1998. First, there was the constant finagling with local smoking ordinances, which included Hennepin County scaling back its total ban. And Tim Pawlenty spent the end of last year's legislative session targeting Big Tobacco to prop up the state's fiscal woes. Governor HockeyPuck's surcharge on cigarette packs around the state to raise revenue wasn't a tax, but rather a "health impact fee." Call it what you want, HockeyPuck, but you might just want to settle on "illegal." Last year, a judge ruled that the cigarette tax violated the 1998 tobacco settlement, and the state couldn't use some $200 million a year in projected revenue. Drat! The case is currently making its way to the state Supreme Court, but even money says Big Tobacco wormed its way out of another one. Comebacks, of course, are the sign of a true villain—especially those that are indisputably evil—ensuring that any battle will live to see another day. In short, even anti-smoking zealots would have to agree: Life wouldn't be nearly as much fun (although longer, certainly) if we didn't have Big Tobacco to kick around.