The self-righteous pushers of sin taxes are at it again.
This time they are going after the pocketbook of California smokers with an additional $2 per pack tax on cigarettes headed for the statewide Nov. 8 ballot.
If put in place, it would take the cigarette tax on a pack of smokes up to $2.87 pushing the cost for 20 cigarettes up to $7.50 in the Golden State before you toss in another 60 cents or so for state and local sales taxes.
The purveyors of sin taxes justify cutting smokers from the herd of taxpayers because smoking is not healthy, cigarette related diseases place a heavy burden on healthcare costs, and it is for the smokers’ own good.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids likes to cite studies that contend a 10 percent price increase can lower the use of cigarettes by as much as 5 percent.
So if the goal is to prices smokers who tend to not be flush with money out of the market, why just go for a $2 a pack increase? Why not go for an $8.50 per pack tax hike so cigarettes can match the price they sell at in New Your City at $14 a pack?
Surely increasing the cost of cigarettes by almost $3,200 a year for a pack a day smoker will get poor people who self-righteous sin tax advocates believe should be taxed into behavior that they view as politically correct will stop lighting up.
Surely that will decrease deaths from smoking but what about an increase in death from tax enforcement?
Back in July 2014 Eric Garner died in a chokehold placed by New York City police officers who had been given orders from city hall to stop the proliferation of black market cigarettes that were being sold for a $1 each on sidewalks for smokers to avoid paying $14 plus a pack that included a $4.35 per pack state tax and a $1.60 per pack city tax.
While one death doesn’t a trend make, it does underscore what the real addiction is driving higher sin taxes — money. Al Capone could tell you how much more resourceful government is when it comes to getting their man if he cheats them out of tax revenue as opposed to killing, mayhem, and terror.
It is always a joy to read about how advocates of sin taxes are going to spend what the state reaps on the poor, innocent children, and the elderly while at the same time their tax burdens the poor, diverts money from the children in a family with parents that smoke, and also takes from elderly smokers.
I know. I know. It’s all in the name of stopping a nasty, unhealthy habit and make smokers pay for the cost of diseases they cultivate by smoking.
If you happen to be among the 24.7 percent of California adults that are obese or another 26 percent or so who are just considered overweight don’t be too smug if you cast your vote with the self-righteous sin tax crowd.
Obesity is a major contributing factor to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, a number of cancers, and arthritis.
That’s right. Obesity and cancer are linked. The Center for Disease Control on 2010 placed the number of annual obesity-related cancer deaths at 505,825. Those deaths are expected to hit 1,251,371 a year by 2030. The CDC pegs cancer deaths from smoking and second-hand smoke at more than 480,000 annually. Granted there is crossover when it comes to the cause of a cancer death. It is clear, however, that obesity rivals if not exceeds smoking as a higher cost burden on our healthcare system as well as claiming lives.
If you tip the scales more than you should, go ahead and by all means vote to tax smokers to death.
Just remember when the sin tax advocates comes after you with $2 taxes on Big Macs, $1 taxes on French fries, and $2 per grab bag chip taxes that you turned the dogs loose.
Taxes should be first and foremost about funding essential services that we can’t provide for ourselves as individuals. In a fair world we all would be charged a set percentage either based on income or consumption for our part of the bill.
Sin taxes not only contort any sense of fairness but they also play to the lowest common denominator to prey on the weak and to treat those outside politically correct circles as if they don’t exist.
The Nazis understood this well. It is why they went after Jews with virtual impunity.
But there is one other lesson that we seem to forget just as much from the atrocities committed during World War II in the name of political correctness and the culling of the weak. If you do nothing to stop persecution of specific classes of people — in this case taxpayers — the next target of the self-righteous politically correct crowd may very well be you.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.