Use More Cigarette-Tax Dollars to Stop Smoking

States should be required to spend more of their tobacco-tax revenue on anti-smoking resources. Pro or con?

Pro: A Certain Way to Save Lives

"Fifty million dead. Billions sickened. Economic losses in trillions." Newspaper headlines from a long-feared pandemic? A terrorist attack? A natural disaster? No, these will be the headlines on Dec. 31, 2099, documenting the effects of tobacco use in the U.S. during this century. But these headlines need not occur. We know how to prevent the deaths, illnesses, and economic costs of tobacco use—and the road to doing so begins at the state level.

How do we know this? Because we have been there: California in the 1980s; Massachusetts and Florida in the 1990s; Maine, New York, and several other states in the past decade. Each has devoted modest to substantial funds to establish and maintain comprehensive tobacco control programs, and these programs worked. Where funding was adequate and maintained over a number of years, fewer youths started using tobacco, more adults quit, state populations became healthier, and tobacco-related health-care costs went down.

Yet, only one state, North Dakota, is now funding a tobacco control program at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, despite that data have demonstrated the effectiveness of the state-based tobacco control programs—from both a health and an economic perspective. Yes, economic times are tough, but these programs pay off. They produce revenue for needed state projects and they provide for the health of the states’ citizens. This is the job we expect our governments to do, and citizens should require that they do so.

Con: No Need for More Funding

Tobacco doesn’t pay tax. People do.

If all government and anti-smokers care about is the cash value of taxing people who smoke, it amounts to human trafficking of smokers. It’s abuse and manipulation, and debates on the subject of tobacco-tax revenue historically disregard actual human beings.

Tobacco control—with taxation as a tactic—is people control. The anti-smoking faction’s intent is to rescind the right of free will to choose. The adage that "the power to tax is the power to destroy" is consciously applied.

Because the tobacco tax is inescapable, however, many Americans would reason we want its use linked to anti-smoking programs. But pardon us informed, independent-minded smokers if we’d prefer it stay out of the hands of intolerant people who use it to assault our autonomy as adults. (And to those who say we need the smoking-cessation programs to alleviate the cost of smoke-related illnesses, let me remind you that the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement was intended to cover the alleged health-care costs of smokers, so any further argument regarding taxes for that purpose is to support a form of double jeopardy.)

Consider, too, that Congress awarded the Food & Drug Administration oversight of tobacco. Once the FDA implements all provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act, it’ll eliminate the need for state and other local smoking-cessation programs. Cutting out the redundancy will save states millions of dollars, relieving taxpayers of having to cover budget gaps with higher property and sales taxes.

"Denormalize" smoking, opponents say. But what they’re really doing is denormalizing civil liberties to accomplish that end. No benefit alleged by tobacco control supersedes our right to be left alone.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek.com Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or Bloomberg.

Reader Comments

Jan

The states have spent themselves stupid with thier MSA windfall. They funded every hare-brained anti tobacco program that came before the legislators. The decline in smoking is now not only costing them their state excise tax revenue, but their annual MSA funds payments are in decline as well.

Sorry anti tobacco, the gravy train has left the station. When schools are fully funded, I'll care about smoking, when there are police on duty 24/7, I will care about smoking, when the poor are housed and fed, I will care about smoking, when kids can see a doctor, a dentist or get new glasses, I will care about smoking.

My list could go on and on. The citizens have needs, now today. We were promised a decline in health care cost and insurance premiums in 1998 with the MSA agreement and all the money that was going to be spent to educate the kids about the dangers of smoking.

I do not think Ameica wants to wait until 2099 to see if these programs worked to reduce death and illness. People are getting sick today, people are dying today. That are we going to do about that? Tell them not to smoke?

History Buff

From the research I've done on the subject of the no-smoke products, I have found by following the money, that the entire no-smoke issue and tobacco control groups are in existance to sell the no-smoke products, those being made by the industry that funds the smoking bans and funds research to "fit the agenda." It is a giant marketing scam.

Billy

I noticed the Pro side did not go into the second-hand smoke myth. Anti tobacco forces use second-hand smoke as causing billions in related health-care costs to justify bans. So where are the massive worker compensation claims that justify those billions? Sounds like fraud to me. I worked for you and now have shortness of breath and you allowed smoking years ago, I want my workers compensation. How long would the government give credit to second-hand smoke then?

on to you

Glynn and Steger, until you produce proof of 50 billion dead with death certificates, complete residence, employment, medical and genetics history showing tobacco as the sole cause, there is no debate because you have to prove that you are not just lying for the anti smoking agenda--millions upon millions of dollars ACS gets from the pharmas first, right?

All anti smoking does is pad the profits of the foundation/pharma with profits from their own nicotine, right?

You have a lot of explaining to do because your credibility is not worthy of debate until you prove your claims.

People should wake up and see that they have been had by what appears to be the most brilliant marketing scheme, right?

Did you pay taxes on your 3rd of the $99 million pot to lobby for RWJF?

sheila

The American Cancer Society nor the government, on any level, wants people to stop smoking. If they did, they would simply outlaw the selling of it. Demonizing users has simply created a justification for outlandish taxes, and the movement of money from one "foundation" to another. It's an industry to transfer the nicotine delivery system from tobacco companies to the drug companies who sell nicotine replacement and Chantix. I believe it is called "the transfer of wealth."

Steve P.A.

The government is so full of it. Anti-smoke adds and the high taxes is a big money making scam. The numbers that they claim of people who quit from advertising is far from the truth. Even ask the great Mayor of N.Y., Bloomberg. He has been profiting for years along with N.Y.C in stocks with the big tobacco companies. Let's be honest. People who want to smoke, will. Regardless of the cost, they always will find other alternatives to accommodate their love to smoke. It's the people that don't have the patience or time who suffer paying this ridiculous tax. The Food and Drug Administration also makes out by selling quit smoking items that tend not to really work. These drugs are playing with the mind, and people believe it is really helping them. But in the long run people go back. If you really want to quit, you would just stop. The drugs are just a crutch in your mind. It is all about money.

branchouttara

In my opinion, nonsmoking programs are actually money laundering to organizations like RWJF, who make anti smoking products that don't work.

Here is a thought--the tobacco trust funds were obtained to help with medical costs supposedly caused by smoking. Yet not one dime is given to the hospitals and medical institutions to cover the cost by supposed smoke-related illness. The money is used for other things and grassroot efforts. It has closed business, caused discrimination, and yes in some cases death to those who consume a legal product.

It's not about health. Tobacco money was used to fund Schip, not smoke-related illness. Again, in my opinion, to pay for children that people could not responsibly afford to have. Build stadiums, etc.

If smoke-related illness was actually a problem, all the money would have gone to hospitals to pay for the smokers. Smokers are actually paying for their own health care, but their money is being laundered by multibillion-dollar nonprofit organizations.

joe

I prefer the states use the tax revenue as they need. Budgets are tight or in the red, so leave states the flexibility to spend on services that affect all.

virgilk

There is no justification to spend more on smoking education. All you need to do is look in the papers, TV, magazines, etc. We are bombarded 24/7 by anti-smoking advertising. Anyone who doesn't get this message must be blind deaf and dumb. Those making a living pushing for smoking bans are worried they may lose their golden goose. The message is so loud and clear--the ACS is attacking the obese like they attacked smokers.

branchouttara

Interesting about advertising. Recently, I saw an advertisement for anti smoking with the actress making a drink in her work office. What message does this send to children? Approximately 531 deaths happened in Washington State from drunk drivers. That statistic does not include accidents without mortalities, nor does it include the domestic violence statistics, not to mention the attempted suicides while on alcohol.

This type of advertising, in addition to the Chantix advertisement with all the side effects, is pure example to any educated individual that the risk of smoking for 60 years is far less than the risk of taking a drug that could kill the smoker and cause homicidal ideations affecting all.

Recently information came out about the increased suicide rates of our military soldiers. Concurrently, information also came out that the government is using our military service personnel for Chantix studies.

Is the anti tobacco organization actually causing deaths? These medications can cause renal failure, stroke, and cardiac complications.

They are on a slippery slope and legal intervention in my opinion should be taken against them by families who have lost loved ones by the coercion of these non profit organizations

Sammy Ghezzaoui

Great, this is what the doctor prescibed. Raise taxes on cigarettes and ease the law on marijuana.

Nobody is concerned about the health of the smokers when they quit smoking. Next year watch the same media who're encouraging smokers to quit, wishing they were not part of this hoopla as the ramifications on the health of people who quit smoking will start showing.
Diabetese is the beginning of these ramifications.

I think this subject of raising taxes during this bad economic time in our country is not what the doctor has ordered.

Atanas Iwanow

Let's be honest and face reality. Every government increases the tax on tobacco products to fill in gaps in their budget. Governments pledge the money will be used for health care, but look at the countries in the EU, where this tax is then used for the subsidizing of tobacco growing. How hypocritical can they get? It is also a well-observed fact that by raising tax on cigarettes, governments provide solid incentives for smuggling and production of fake cigarettes. This has an adverse effect on the industry, and legitimite companies also take part in this kind of grey economy. All in all, the increase of tobacco tax is just one of those vicious cycles, in which each party loses more than it wins.

Chris Benten

Quit spending money to prevent people from something they are going to do anyway. Sufficient information is available to make informed decisions. What I really want to happen is for smokers to pay higher health premiums so I am not subsidizing them.

Michael J. McFadden

"Fifty million dead. Billions sickened." eh? The problem with statements like these are that they all come from a computer program called SAMMEC: Smoking Attributable Morbidity, Mortality, and Economic Costs. Those numbers could go up or down wildly, all depending upon what variables are plugged into what variations or what formulae the researchers happen to like during a particular blue moon.

When one looks at the shenanigans played with numbers from antismoking grant-grubbers that can be checked it seems almost universally true that those numbers get juggled to give antismoking results. See the Aftercomments to the Grier article at:

http://www.jacobgrier.com/blog/archives/2210.html

or the analysis of the Scottish "Post Ban Heart Miracle" claims at:

http://www.velvetgloveironfist.com/index.php?page_id=65

for some examples, and be aware that this sort of deception is the rule, not the exception. See www.TheTruthIsALie.com for even more examples.

The tobacco tax MSA revenue was originally justified on the grounds that it would be used to "treat sick smokers." Well, then that's what it should be used for. The smokers are the ones who are paying it, they should be the ones to benefit from it: not the tobacco companies, not the government, not the starving middle class children whose health insurance smokers are now paying for through SCHIP because the nonsmokers were too selfish to care themselves.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

CindyL

I agree with using the tobacco-tax revenue on anti-smoking resources. Even though we all know that the suppliers and the tobacco-users are the ones paying the taxes, this should serve as a lesson that people should stop smoking.

TryingToQuit

The government should simply outlaw the sale of tobacco if they are really concerned with people's healh more than taking smokers' money and hoping they die before they collect Social Security. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that this is the case. Tobacco was even subsidized for years to increase sales overseas. Most smokers have tried to quit several times and failed. Some people are too poor to smoke, but they do anyway, and the government keeps making them poorer by raising taxes on tobacco. It would be more humane to just outlaw tobacco, but the government must want to make up for budget shortfalls so they don't care and they fool themselves into thinking they should not share in the responsibility of all those addicted people they are helping put in the poor house. You don't see other drugs being made legal to sell, but as long as they need the money and smokers are a minority they will probably continue their evil ways. The people in government that allow this deserve to rot in hell.

Moman

Ah, look at the arguements that fly when yet another 'pet' tax flies out of legislatures everywhere.

I'd love to see every smoker in the country quit for at least a month to show those selfish clowns what the true impact of the big spenders they voted for. Let all the people feel the impact of the taxes necessary to pay for our society's big money programs from governments.

Any 'pet' tax, 'sin' tax, or even progressive tax brackets is no more than taxation without representation. It amounts to no more than the majority picking on yet another minority because...well...they can!

It's always a situation of who has the most representation that determines who is at the 'business end' of a tax.

Why do you think higher income people get hammered by our tax code? Simple. Because they are a very small minority and an easy target.
Taxes should be spread out evenly to all so all the people feel the impact of government and it's drunkin spending habits.

Take the gas tax as an example: This is called a 'use tax.' Well, I'm sorry, but if you're breathing in the this country you use fuel whether or not you drive. All product shipments and people providing services that you need to survive get where they're going some how.
Careful about wanting "targeted" taxes. The next one could coming straight at you.

Charles Tran

Like most of the traffic tickets, "Cigarette-Tax Dollars to Stop Smoking” is a nice way to fill government huge deficit and support a lavish spending, and has little to do with health. Smokers are the biggest victims.

After all these years of police raids, politicians are creatively working hard to legalize pot in California so they can collect more money and share big profits.

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