Monday, December 31, 2007

I have written repeatedly that raising excise taxes to regulate behavior is a bad idea. You can use those taxes as a revenue stream or you can use those taxes to stop the behavior. You can't do both things.

Recently, the State of Texas raised excise taxes on cigarettes to $1 a pack to help fund education. The state reported that cigarette sales didn't decline as quickly as anti-smoking advocates had hoped, and had generated $244 million more than predicted.

What do the neo-prohibitionists say? The cigarette tax is a solid revenue stream and some of the income should fund cessation programs.

That the solid revenue stream should be pared down? Eventually, there will only be one or two smokers in the world, and they will be expected to fund education, smoking cessation programs, and children's health insurance. That way, no one else has to pay for it.

The only way that kind of tax will work to fund every desirable government program is if the government requires that everyone use cigarettes. And if you want to criminalize tobacco and legalize marijuana, you are an idiot. It's not about the health risk. It's about someone else's morality.

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