Legalized Plunder: Cigarette Tax Edition

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Adding a $1 per pack tax to cigarettes could raise more than $9 billion a year for states, health advocates said on Wednesday, and a poll released with the study shows Americans would support such a tax.

The poll, conducted by International Communications Research, found 60 percent of voters would support the tax to help struggling states and would prefer it over other tax increases or budget cuts.

An increase in tobacco tax rates is not only sound public health policy but a smart and predictable way to help boost the economy and generate long-term health savings for states facing deepening budget deficits,” said John Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“We have irrefutable evidence that raising the tobacco tax lowers smoking rates among adults and deters millions of children from picking up their first cigarette,” Seffrin said in a statement.

The report was released by the Cancer Action Network, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

All these non-profit groups have long supported taxing tobacco more as a way to discourage smoking.

The report, available here, projects the revenue that each state could earn by increasing cigarette taxes, based on research that shows a 10 percent cigarette tax increase reduces total consumption by 4 percent.

Now first off, let me just say that I am no fan of cigarettes.  I have lived with smokers and I find it to be a repulsive habit.  That being said, that people are advocating taxing cigarettes, junk food or anything else is wrong for numerous reasons.  First, it is your choice whether or not you want to consume things that may be unhealthy.  Forced “morality” through social engineering is immoral plain and simple.  Second, these types of proposals that are sold as reducing consumption of these products (which is great so long as its voluntary) are also sold as being revenue generators, which is simply an insane concept when you think about it.  The government would literally be coming up with rationalizations for taking money from you.  Since the government has grown into such a Leviathan it will look for reasons to penalize the people to fund itself.  This is legalized plunder.  A state that has to search for things to tax is a state that has grown too big.

Now the argument that this is for the public good besides the fact that it makes our citizens healthier always falls along the following lines as mentioned in the Reuters article:

“Each year in the United States, smoking-caused disease results in $96 billion in health care costs, much of which is paid by taxpayers through higher insurance premiums and government-funded health programs such as Medicaid,” the report argues

“Indeed, higher Medicaid costs are one of the reasons states are facing budget difficulties.”

Again here, as with almost all of these proposed government fixes, that smoking or obesity for example contributes significantly to healthcare costs which in turn kills the fiscal health of the nation merely addresses a symptom, not the root cause of our ultimate insolvency which is the social welfare state itself.  Smokers, drinkers and obese people would not cost us so much if the social programs didn’t exist in the first place.  Keep people off the dole and you won’t have proposals for ridiculous social engineering nor will you have massive budgetary problems.

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