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Author Topic: Why does the government tax smoking?  (Read 3547 times)

Offline cheryl j

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Why does the government tax smoking?
« on: 23/03/2013 11:26:00 »
Provinces in Canada and many states in the US are increasing taxes on cigarettes. The Canadian and American Cancer Societies see this as positive, as areas with higher cigarette prices do show reduced consumption. However, money generated from higher taxes is almost always dumped into a general fund, and anti smoking programs in Canada and the US have actually had their budgets slashed. In Saskatchewan, public officials publicaly stated that cigarette taxes were raised to offset "falling revenues from non-renewable resources such as oil and gas." Massachusetts "diverted 99% of all its tobacco revenue to something other than the tobacco-related purposes for which they were originally intended" such as education and transportation projects.
 
If a government increases taxes on cigarettes, this money should go directly to helping smokers quit, and  by that I mean providing nicotine patches, gum, medications that reduce cravings, and addiction counseling free of cost. Relying on tobacco revenue to balance a budget is simply profiting on the sale of a substance the government knows is destructive to people's health. Furthermore, in Canada, government health care costs due to smoking outweigh tobacco revenue. It is senseless to keep collecting more taxes on cigarettes only to spend it later on treating lung cancer and heart disease in smokers who are unable to quit, instead of using it to treat and prevent the addiction itself.

« Last Edit: 23/03/2013 17:04:55 by JP »


 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Smoking
« Reply #1 on: 23/03/2013 13:23:07 »
The same is true in the UK. It is a conflict of interest when a government's tax revenue is in someway dependent on people partaking in a habit that the government are supposed to be trying to discourage.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #2 on: 23/03/2013 19:06:13 »
The same is true in the UK. It is a conflict of interest when a government's tax revenue is in someway dependent on people partaking in a habit that the government are supposed to be trying to discourage.

In addition to the ethical conflict of interest, it bothers me whenever governments say they are doing something in the name of health  or the environment, when clearly there are other motivations. I think this happens in other areas, such as gas taxes. Governments are not the only ones who do this. For example, I've seen groups use "the unknown health risks" of wind turbines to oppose their construction, when what they are actually worried about is a potential drop in real estate value. Science and medicine should not be politically exploited.
« Last Edit: 23/03/2013 19:09:19 by cheryl j »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #3 on: 23/03/2013 19:30:08 »
A cigarette tax tends to be a very regressive tax as the income of smokers tends to be lower than the income of non-smokers. 

However, I soundly support the government doing anything they can (legally do) to reduce the number of people lighting up. 

In Oregon, the Cigarette tax gets distributed as:

Currently, the tax rate is $.059 per cigarette or $1.18 per pack of 20 cigarettes. The tax is distributed as follows: 18.6 percent to the General Fund; 72.6 percent to the Oregon Health Plan; 1.9 percent to cities; 1.9 percent to counties; 1.9 percent to the Oregon Department of Transportation; and 2.9 percent to the Tobacco-Use Reduction Account.

So, while about 25% does go into various "General Funds", about 75% goes back into health, & smoking reduction, primarily targeting the poor.  Smoking, of course, can be harmful to the health, and expensive, so it makes sense to invest money from smoking back into health care.

As with many things in the USA, each state distributes the tobacco tax funds differently.
 

Offline chris

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #4 on: 24/03/2013 23:24:37 »
Smokers pay for their healthcare very effectively, I'm given to understand. At least, that's what a public health doctor / epidemiologist said he'd found when looking at the UK figures.

Smokers pay for their habit in taxes, they tend to live less long so claim less pension and other state benefits, and those that do incur higher health costs owing to the development of a chronic smoking-related condition (like bronchitis and emphysema) are compensated by the premature death group, who die suddenly of heart attacks and strokes, costing the country less money.

So, all told, the government actually love smokers.
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #5 on: 25/03/2013 02:46:05 »
Quote
A cigarette tax tends to be a very regressive tax

I would say that cigarette smoking tends to be a very regressive habit, since it is indulged by those who can least afford the cigarettes (or the accompanying health care costs).

That is apart from the regressive health effects it has on your pulmonary, circulatory, nervous, reproductive and renal systems, among others.
« Last Edit: 25/03/2013 02:48:02 by evan_au »
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #6 on: 26/03/2013 15:00:45 »
Smokers pay for their healthcare very effectively, I'm given to understand. At least, that's what a public health doctor / epidemiologist said he'd found when looking at the UK figures.

Smokers pay for their habit in taxes, they tend to live less long so claim less pension and other state benefits, and those that do incur higher health costs owing to the development of a chronic smoking-related condition (like bronchitis and emphysema) are compensated by the premature death group, who die suddenly of heart attacks and strokes, costing the country less money.

So, all told, the government actually love smokers.

As a long term smoker, I would NOT condone smoking. It IS a filthy, smelly, awful habit, which I have tried to kick in every conceivable way, alas, without success.

But the truth of the matter is that what Chris wrote here is spot on.

The UK treasury collected 12.1b in year 2011-12 in tax and VAT on tobacco products.

The annual cost to the NHS has been estimated to be around 5.2b, though it is now thought that this figure is wildly overestimated and the actual cost may be more like 2.7b. So the UK treasury, in year 2011-12 made at least 6.9b and may have made as much as 9.4b

Hardly any wonder, then, that governments have no real desire to put an end to smoking.

Coincidentally, the duty and VAT on alcohol, brought in 9.4b in 2011-12, and the cost to the UK tax payer? Taking the NHS, police and justice system and damage etc. caused by all that excesive drinking brings with it was a staggering 21b

So, just think about it; if I and every other smoker were to pack in tomorrow, we might not be coughing so much, but the tax payer would have to cough up an extra 9.4b a year to pay for alcohol related problems.

I reiterate, I do not defend smoking, but please don't make smokers pay for drunks.

If governments trully want to put an end to the evil weed, there is a simple solution.

Vis:

As of next year, make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 18yrs
The following year, make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 19yrs
The following year, 20yrs
The next, 21yrs
Then 22yrs
Then 23yrs
And so on and so forth until we are all dead and burried.
The fines for illegal sales and smuggling need to hurt, not just a slap on the wrists.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #7 on: 26/03/2013 17:45:51 »
Rather than having a strict smoking ban on a single age, one could always increase the smoking age more gradually.  Increase the age by 1 year every other year. 

So, babies born now could in fact smoke sometime in their lifetime if they so chose, but they couldn't legally do it until about age 30 or so.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #8 on: 26/03/2013 19:20:05 »
How one feels about this issue may have something to do with how you believe human beings respond to positive or negative reinforcements, and how they think about risk. Yes the high cost of cigarettes reduces consumption, although some smokers may just inhale more deeply, not let a cigarette burn in an ash tray, or buy illegal cheap smokes, before they give up. Most people I know quit because the anxiety of worrying about cancer eventually outweighed whatever pleasure they received from smoking or the intensity of their cravings, not just because of the cost or age limits or bans on smoking in public places. 

The odd psychological aspect of the risk of smoking is that while a smoker knows cigarettes may eventually given him cancer, no one cigarette by itself will kill him, so it's easy to just light another and another and procrastinate quitting. Often it is not the severity of consequences of an action that deters people, but the certainty of them or soon they will occur.

Cigarette cravings are not as severe as cancer, but they are certain and immediate. I think if you offered most smokers a way to quit with minimal cravings, they would eagerly accept, unless they really do have a death wish. That is why I think tobacco revenue should go towards directly paying for any medication or assistance, as it is a positive incentive for giving up a habit most really would like to be rid of anyway.


« Last Edit: 26/03/2013 19:31:16 by cheryl j »
 

Offline majorminor

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #9 on: 28/03/2013 13:44:03 »
I have smoked at various times throughout my life and have given up without much problem , mostly because I like to jog and hate the wheezing that occurs in the lungs. I never worried about cancer as I just believe my body will fight off all comers until i am old and ready stop breathing and also always thought I would quit(as I always do). Anyways, I think its a good idea to put high taxes on it for the afore mentioned reason that it does reduce smoking (Especially with poor people) . But even now as a non-smoker I would fight any call to ban it from any government.  What would be next, forceful exercising of fat people and diets chosen for us. Let us all live and die by our own mistakes and imaginations assuming we are not harming anyone else:)
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #10 on: 28/03/2013 17:53:44 »
Having a law (e.g. banning smoking) or applying taxation are both a type of social engineering which governments undertake. You could argue that a sufficiently high tax would amount to the same thing though I guess that, in general terms, a tax proportionate to the overall cost to society (that smoking results in) would be fair. On the other hand, I do approve of banning smoking in places where it is offensive to other people who do not wish to partake in "passive" smoking.

It is surprising to me how well social engineering works. Banning smoking in pubs and restaurants (at least in the UK) is now accepted as a generally good idea but it was certainly a hot topic when initially proposed. I also remember the compulsory wearing of seat belts was initially regarded as an unnecessary imposition on a person's rights; I don't believe many think that today.
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #11 on: 29/03/2013 14:06:29 »
If governments trully want to put an end to the evil weed, there is a simple solution.

Vis:

As of next year, make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 18yrs
The following year, make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under 19yrs
The following year, 20yrs
The next, 21yrs
Then 22yrs
Then 23yrs
And so on and so forth until we are all dead and burried.
The fines for illegal sales and smuggling need to hurt, not just a slap on the wrists.

Yes!! Tobacco, having no redeeming value, is a scourge.

We have enough time to convince governments and tobacco companies so that no one born after 31 December 1999 could legally buy/smoke cigarettes. We could proudly declare the 21st-century generations (and beyond) as tobacco free.

Tobacco companies could then accurately predict the decline of their business and allow them to transition over to more useful crops, such as food.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #12 on: 03/04/2013 13:53:15 »
..... Banning smoking in pubs and restaurants (at least in the UK) is now accepted as a generally good idea .....

Not entirely, it is certainly one reason why 18 public houses close each week in the UK. I and many people I know who are smokers, no longer spend the time and money I used to in pubs, because I have no wish to go anywhere where I am treated as one of the unclean, bannished to some cold, windy and wet excuse for a shelter outside.

Though no-one wants to admit it, the increase in non-smoking pub customers which arose after the smoking ban, has not compensated for the lose of smoking customers.
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #13 on: 03/04/2013 17:35:23 »
You are right, Don, I have heard that from other people too. Smokers of course! Though it is hard to untangle the demise of pubs being from that cause or it being down to the drink-driving laws. It is mainly country pubs where the closures are occurring I believe. I think both issues have changed the nature of the British pub and heralded the rise of the "gastro-pub". Personally, if they existed, I would avoid pubs where smoking was allowed, as would a large number of non-smokers; I think this is where there has been a change of attitude from acceptance of passive smoking to one of intolerance. It does come down to a conflict between the rights of non-smokers to avoid passive smoking and the rights of smokers to enjoy a fag (colloquial for cigarette for our US friends) and a drink together without having to go outside.
 

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Re: Why does the government tax smoking?
« Reply #13 on: 03/04/2013 17:35:23 »

 

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