halfacanuck

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May 28, 2004

Smokescreen

Stop the presses: smoking is bad for you.

So says a new study, which links tobacco consumption to a slew of diseases previously thought unrelated, including various cancers, cataracts, pneumonia and bronchitis.

Wait -- did they say smoking causes cancer? And you can get respiratory conditions from inhaling toxins? This is a paradigm shift in how we should view smoking -- which until yesterday was seen as a harmless diversion -- and represents tax dollars well-spent.

Cheryl Healton, president of the anti-smoking American Legacy Foundation, said officials have failed to act on recommendations made by a government-appointed scientific panel last year. Among its proposals was raising the federal tax on cigarettes from 39 cents per pack to $2.39.

Thanks for your input, Cheryl, but there are a number of problems with that proposal. First, tobacco tax is amonst the most regressive of all taxes, meaning low-income families (who make up the majority of smokers) end up paying almost five times more than everyone else. Second, it actually reduces tax revenue, because people quit and thus stop paying the tax. Third, and most importantly, to suggest taxing smoking "for the good of the smoker" without taxing other dangerous activities like riding a motorbike or skydiving is hypocritical. As this NCPA analysis puts it, "Part of what living in a free society means is having the right to take risks without asking others' permission and without paying others a fee for the privilege of exercising that right."

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