Monday, May 27, 2013

Tax the "Stinking Weed"

When studying the rich early history of the Jamestown settlers, much of the economy during that time revolved around the growth, cultivation, and trade of tobacco, known as "the stinking weed." Among disease and famine, tobacco also fueled the 80% death rate in Jamestown during that time. Unfortunately, unlike the raw tobacco that was colonial gold, tobacco has become infused with poisons and commercialized in every pocket of the world.

According to preliminary data from the CDC, An estimated 45.3 million people, in the United States smoke cigarettes and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for
approximately 443,000 deaths, or 1 of every 5 deaths, in the United States each year. Similar to what the founders thought about in Jamestown, is a relevant thought today: Tax the hell out of the stuff. Not only would it generate immense revenue for the Government, hopefully it would deter people from causing their own demise.

The Allied Health Sciences and Practice shows that a 50-cent per pack federal cigarette tax increase would generate $10.3 billion in new revenue each year. In addition, it would decrease the numbers of youth smokers by 10% or 1.7 million. Tobacco smoking in adults would also drop by roughly 3%, resulting in nearly 1.5 million fewer smokers. Overall future smoking related deaths would be decreased by more than 850,000 and would result in long-term health care savings of 32 billion dollars.  Professor Jonathan Klein of the University of Rochester states the higher prices should have the positive effect of reducing teenage smoking.   Tobacco Free Kids furthers that “Every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing smoking. Higher tobacco taxes also save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs, including Medicaid expenses. States can realize even greater health benefits and cost savings by allocating some of the revenue to programs that prevent children from smoking and help smokers quit.” Such taxes have been considered with alcohol and gambling as well, and are commonly referred to as “sin taxes,” Do you think it is a good idea to increase “sin taxes”? How would this parallel to the Jamestown colony? Please share your thoughts below.

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