February 12, 2007

Science update

If only one percent of the dumbasses who continue to worship at the altar of Thomas Malthus would come to realize the reliability of markets and human behavior, public policy would be a much better thing. To wit:

Across the country, states are putting their own treasuries under pressure with anti-smoking policies and higher cigarette taxes. The better these measures work, the fewer smokers are left to pay; in 2005, states levied taxes on 2.8 billion fewer packs than just five years earlier.

Smoker taxes have been a small but critical source of cash in recent years, as all but a handful of states jacked up their tobacco taxes. Minnesota, for example, slapped an extra 75-cent charge on a pack of cigarettes to solve a budget problem two years ago; the state expects to collect about $451 million from smokers this year.

Bob Kurtter, a state budget watcher at Moody's Investors Service, said it's an easy call for budget-challenged states to turn to sin taxes: "They're the most socially acceptable form of taxes you can raise." Two years ago, tobacco taxes contributed $13 billion to state budgets.

But those collections are slipping as consumption drops. Just over a fifth of U.S. adults smoked in 2005, down from about one-fourth a decade ago.

Higher taxes driving lower consumption which results in lower tax collections. Hmmm.

Posted by Steve-O at February 12, 2007 12:48 PM | TrackBack

So now they're going to fund ad campaigns to get people to smoke?


The best way to get people to quit smoking, IMO, would be to simply require the companies to list all the chemicals they put into the cigarettes.

Posted by: rbj at February 12, 2007 12:56 PM

Because getting people to quit smoking is bad? Won't save on health costs in larger proportions than loss of tax income? How is this a bad thing?

Just don't tax my pRon.

Posted by: LB Buddy at February 12, 2007 01:00 PM

You would think. But the gist was that state's were using the revenue in a variety of other ways, and would have to start taxing other things that were less politically easy to tax than cigarettes.

You know what should be next, of course?

Your Ben & Jerry's. Full cigarette suing strategy, given their marketing targeting kids and the general all-around unhealthiness of their products.

BTW, hope all is well with you guys.

Posted by: Steve the LLamabutcher at February 12, 2007 01:09 PM

Oddly enough, we'll know the state is truly evil when someone applies the Laffer curve to cigarette taxes. A Reaganomic paradox will be generated that will rip a hole in the universe.

Posted by: The Colossus at February 12, 2007 04:50 PM

LB Buddy - actually, given our current state of healthcare technology, quitting smoking is a bad thing for the budget.

Sure, cancer is expensive to treat, but it's over relatively quickly, disease-wise. Most countries outside the US don't put as much pressure on smokers to quit because the demographers at their health ministries figured out long ago that keeling over from cancer at 50 is cheaper than living to 80 and being treated for ED, arthrits, heart disease and obesity. That's an extreme example, but the numbers do work out in the insurer's favor if you smoke. I got this (and the supporting data) first-hand from a health ministry official in a country I will not name.

Once a working stiff quits working, he or she's no good to to the health insurer.

Posted by: John at February 12, 2007 09:06 PM

The now Democrat-controlled Minnesota House and Senate are rollicking along on their way to passing a state-wide smoking ban in all public places - including privately-owned bars and restaurants. (The 75 cent a pack don't-call-it-a-tax-it's-a-fee was the brainchild of the nominally Republican governor, with proceeds going "to the children"). Minnesota smokers (I'm a lifelong non-smoker) are getting mugged and then thrown out into the cold. Once the state has choked the smoking population down to one-sixth or one-eighth of the population, however, I'm sure the legislature will cut back on state spending to reflect the decrease in revenue from the cigarette "fees".

Posted by: Night Writer at February 13, 2007 02:04 PM