Put taxes where they belong

I thought we were supposed to be getting tax cuts, not increases.

The children’s health bill that was just passed by our democratic congress, and signed by our democratic president is raising the federal tax on cigarettes 61 cents a pack.  That’s a pretty big increase.

Ok, I’ll even go along and say that the bill was necessary, and had to be funded somehow.  I think there’s a more appropriate thing to tax in order to raise the revenue.

What do you think about taxing something that:

  • Is marketed (heavily) to children.
  • Is known to cause health and behavioral problems in children (often severe).
  • Provides no useful nutritional or other value to children.
  • Contains a powerful addictive drug.
  • Has more of this drug added by manufacturers to increase it’s addictive qualities.
  • Causes particular problems among the poor.

Wow. Sounds like pretty nasty stuff, huh? Did you guess what it is yet?

I’ll give you a hint — there’s probably some in your refrigerator right now.  You were probably hooked on this stuff while you were young, making you a lifelong customer, and helping pass this addiction to your own children.

Did you get it yet?

It’s those heavily promoted, carbonated, caffeine loaded cans of soft drinks in your refrigerator.

Numerous studies have found strong links to childhood obesity (from all the sugar and high fructose corn sweetener), and behavioral problems from the caffeine.  The “energy” drinks are even worse, having levels of caffeine that approach dangerous levels.  Among the poor, where child nutrition is often borderline (or worse), these have a particularly severe impact.

The sales of these fizzy fatteners are enormous.  Taxing them at even a penny a can would generate an enormous amount of revenue — and revenue that’s not likely to decrease the way cigarette taxes do.  Every time cigarette taxes are raised, more people quit smoking, revenues fall, and cigarette taxes get raised again; a never ending cycle.

A further danger is bootlegging.  People will only tolerate just so much in taxes.  Continued increases will eventually get them to the point where it’s sufficiently profitable to begin smuggling them in from lower tax jurisdictions.  This happened in Canada a few years ago after they put a large tax increase on cigarettes.  As a result, smuggling took off, and Canada was forced to lower the taxes.

Let’s put the taxes where they rightly belong.

Comments welcome.

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