Sometimes I just can’t sleep.  I’m not really sure why, but I lay in bed for hours on end trying, and the big bupkis is my reward.  When you can’t sleep and you know you should be, time grinds to a crawl.  To try and speed time up, I read the flotsam and jetsam of the Internet, and as I was doing this I read about the new push to add a buck more in taxes onto tobbaco.  Now let me be clear up front, from time to time I enjoy smoking cigars, and I also own a hookah and the flavored tobacco that is traditional in such pipes; however, I don’t smoke on a regular basis or just because I’m drinking.  I smoke when I want, and the rest of the 99.7% of the time I’m a non-smoker. This could be construed as atypical behavior, but I want to be clear before moving on.

That said I find this tax irksome, but not because I think it is poor policy, unbeneficial to society at large, or because it won’t raise money.  Nope, I’m against it because if I’m going to spend the time and effort to tax something, I want my monies worth. Yes there are lots of smokers, and according to the same article they cost Americans $96 billion in health care costs annually.  On the other hand, even with people eating out less, there must be a larger pool of people who eat fast food and drink soda pop than smoke, and according to Leadership for Healthy Communities obesity annually cost “$117 billion in direct medical expenses and indirect costs, including lost productivity.”  So I’m thinking with the same tax on a larger taxable pool and with an extra $21 billion in projected annual savings, its time to tax fast food and cola. And because they are not always sold together, just split the tax, $0.50 for each.

Too Much Food

But wait, you say! Smoking is not only bad for you, but it hurts others around you.  Fast food and sodas don’t do that, so I must be wrong.  But I disagree.  It is much less taxing on the overall ecosystem to grow tobacco than raise the number of cows you need to satisfy all the fast food chains out there.  Not to mention, the byproduct of a tobacco plant is oxygen, while the cow puts out a whole lot of methane. Again, I’m not advocating smoking, I’m just saying it’s already taxed, and I think we should go after another vice. I mean, it’s like William Sutton, A.K.A. the original Slick Willie said when asked why he robbed banks, “because that is where the money is.”  And if you don’t agree with me about not hiking a tobacco tax, then just tax all three products.  Best of both world that.

But as I think about it, there may be one upside to a tobacco tax.  Maybe it will drive the number of smokers low enough that I no longer have to view those, “can anyone tell us why smoking isn’t stupid” ads off the TV and from in front of movies.  Seriously, those things make me want to go light up just to spite the people in those ads, and if I could blow the smoke into their faces…oh, I think I might have a joygasm!  We know it’s bad for us.  I grew up the 80s, and they were preaching that message then, so I’m sure they preach it today.  So either put a picture of a cancer riddled lung on the box and be done with it or let people make their own decisions.

A Smoker's Lung

I hear it now though. Out there, somewhere in the either is someone who will claim that we can’t definitively prove the correlation between consuming soda and fast foods and obesity.  I don’t know if that is true or not (let me know if you have that info handy!), but I will accept that it is true. And I say, who cares?  The correlation is perceived as existing by most people, and like marijuana or alcohol or caffeine—what about a coffee tax?—no matter what the facts actually show, the real bottom line is that no matter what you tax or how you tax it, people are going to do what they want.  So lets make some money and encourage people to eat better.

If you think that I’m being a little hard on fast food, just consider that one of the key ingredients in all this, high-fructose corn syrup, is a direct offshoot of Nixion’s Agricultural Secretary, Earl Butz policy to make food cheaper.  So ask yourself which is worse, Nixon’s Butz or cigarette butts? I should add on this note that I learn about this from listening to Smodcast when Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier talked about it during episode #55 Naked Butz. If you’ve never listened to the smodecast, I can’t recommend it enough, though I warn there is much scurrilous language and many odd tangents.

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