An Issue of Tobacco Taxes

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Tobacco tax increases could drive youth smoking into near-nonexistence if done correctly. Sin taxes are a series of taxes aimed at products deemed not beneficial or otherwise destructive (“Sin Taxes” par. 1). Taxes aimed at tobacco products, sometimes referred to as tobacco taxes, create numerous benefits for the country. Money generated by tobacco taxes is produced at the local, state, and federal levels (par. 2). Tobacco taxes create incentives to quit usage because of health benefits deriving from it (Campaign for, “Marketing” par.

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2). Tobacco taxes weaken the influence of tobacco on our political landscape (pars. 10-11). Despite the controversy surrounding them, sin taxes, especially those on tobacco products, should not be undone.

Some researchers, such as Diana Oprinescu, argue that tobacco taxes are not beneficial to society. According to “Sin Taxes”, “Lawmakers have become reliant upon cigarette tax increases” but the same text later states that “the nonsmoking public tends to tolerate more readily than other tax increases” meaning that though tax increases may be a crutch for lawmakers, the nonsmoking public would prefer those tax hikes over other tax increases (par. 6). Another argument against tobacco taxes is that when tobacco taxes are increased, other tax hikes are sure to follow (Oprinescu par. 4). The flaw in that argument is that tobacco taxes aren’t designed to cut other taxes, they are used to reduce the use of tobacco (Campaign, “Marketing” par. 2). While some tobacco taxes may create revenue enough to cut other taxes, the primary purpose of a tobacco tax is to reduce the usage of tobacco in youth and adults alike. An issue in tandem with other tax hikes is the problem of tobacco users traveling to places that have lower taxes on tobacco purchases (Oprinescu par. 14). One example of this evasive approach happened in 2013 when the cigarette tax was increased. Cigarette smokers went from purchasing their own packs of cigarettes to other forms of tobacco that were not under the new tax increase. A solution to one such problem would be to tax all tobacco products instead of specific products, such as cigarettes or cigars (Campaign, “Increasing” par.11). An argument made by Oprinescu is that tobacco taxes put a higher tax burden on their state in general (pars.1-4), to which one could say that tobacco taxes do create more tax burden, but that number will dwindle as people quit using tobacco products (Campaign, “Increasing” par. 9).

First of the tobacco tax increase arguments, evidence suggests that tobacco taxes facilitate beneficial lifestyle changes. Tobacco taxes prevent kids from starting cigarettes young by making it more difficult to acquire cigarettes (Campaign, “Marketing” par. 3). Price increases have shown results of sin taxes between the 1990s and early 2000s (par. 4). Youth smoking rates decreased during that time, but when was lowered in between the years of 2003 and 2005, youth smoking increased. According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,

If every state increased its cigarette tax rate by 50 cents per pack to counteract the 50-cents per pack discount from the cigarette companies’ price promotions, more than 850,000 kids will be prevented from becoming addicted adult smokers, more than 700,000 adults will quit, and more than 460,000 lives will be saves. (Campaign, “Marketing” par. 5)

According to The Times Editorial Board, the number of deaths related to cigarettes is 480,000 nationally and the cost of health care directly related to tobacco is over 13 billion dollars. The staggering numbers show that the health benefits of increasing the tobacco taxes around the country (par. 1). Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids notes that decreasing the amount of tobacco in use will by extension reduce the amount of secondhand smoke youth are exposed to in general (Campaign for, “Increasing” par. 3). Tobacco companies are changing their products to maneuver around the qualifications for tobacco taxes so that they can avoid having to sell for more while still maintaining their products quality to their customers (par. 11).

Secondly, increases to the price of tobacco products produce capital for various levels of the government (“Sin Taxes” par. 3). Sin taxes decrease the number of tobacco products purchased because of the increase in price (Baltimore par. 1). Tobacco is subject to local, state, and federal taxes making them one of the most taxed consumer products (“Sin Taxes” par. 3). The cost of all health care for tobacco-related issues is “nearly $170 billion and costing $156 billion in lost productivity” (par. 4). The Times Editorial Board predicts that an increase in California’s tobacco tax “would bring in between $1 billion and $1.4 billion in its first full year” and that the funds could go to Medi-Cal, a low-income health insurance program (par. 7). Medi-Cal is 49th among the country in reimbursement, so doctors will not accept Medi-Cal in many cases causing those on the program to wait until he or she is in need of the emergency room before being able to receive treatment, costing more money from taxpayers in the process (par. 8). According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “every ten percent increase in the real price of cigarettes will reduce the prevalence of adult smoking by approximately three to five percent and reduce teen smoking by about seven (“Increasing” par. 2).” According to the 2012 surgeon general’s report, “Most of the research over the past decade had concluded that increases in cigarette prices lead to reductions in the prevalence of smoking and its intensity among youth and young adults” (qtd. in Campaign, “Increasing” par. 8). While some argue that because low-income Americans smoke at a much higher rate than those of higher income taxation hurts them the most, the incentive to quit smoking is a good thing that will help low-income people on the whole.

Lastly, Tobacco taxes are able to reduce the influence “Big Tobacco”, a nickname for all tobacco companies’ combined interests, has on the country. Voters on either side of the spectrum support increase on tobacco taxes as opposed to other tax increases on things “such as health, education, and transportation” (Campaign, “Marketing” par. 10). Votes in favor of increases for tobacco taxes come from both political parties. Tobacco companies put lots of effort into preventing the increase of tobacco taxes (par. 11). Some argue that creating taxes to target certain groups then spend the money on things not related to that group is unethical (Times par. 10). Propositions to increase tobacco, like California’s Proposition 56, can avoid this problem of ethics by putting the revenue generated by the taxes into anti-smoking campaigns as well as health care for those with low-income. Restrictions on locations allowing tobacco purchases help reduce youth contact with tobacco altogether (Campaign for, “Marketing” par. 15). Zoning surrounding areas with children, such as schools or playgrounds, limits the ability of tobacco to influence the minds of youth who might otherwise become addicted like many before them (par. 16). Marketing at the place of purchase is the primary way tobacco addictions begin, so restrictions on how a business is allowed to go about advertising tobacco products (par. 20). One study conducted by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids showed that in 2009, when Wisconsin increased its tobacco tax, the number of people calling the state “quit line”, a phone number residents of the state could call to get assistance in quitting tobacco, hit a record number and now usually gets 9,000 calls per year (“Increasing” par. 7). The 2012 surgeon general’s report noted that discounting promotions in favor of tobacco had led to an increase in youth smoking (par. 10).

Tobacco taxes are beneficial to society for a number of aforementioned reasons. Though tobacco taxes put a burden on tobacco users, the increase has been proven to reduce the use of tobacco products. Tobacco taxes may have certain ways for a tobacco user to avoid the sin tax, but with increased attention, there is reason to believe tobacco use will drop over time.

Works Cited

  1. The Baltimore Sun Editorial Board. “Sin Taxes Save Lives by Changing Unhealthy Behaviors.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 10 Oct. 2018. Originally published as “A Healthy Tax Plan,” Baltimore Sun, 28 Nov. 2016.
  2. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Increasing Tobacco Taxes Would Reduce Tobacco Use.” Tobacco and Smoking, edited by Roman Espejo, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, /EJ3010170435/OVIC?u=tel_s_tsla&sid=OVIC&xid=792c6833. Accessed 10 Oct. 2018. Originally published as “Increasing the Federal Tobacco Tax Reduces Tobacco Use (and the Tobacco Companies Know It),” 11 Apr. 2013.
  3. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Counter Tobacco, and the American Heart Association. “Marketing Restrictions and Tobacco Tax Increases Will Reduce Tobacco Addiction.” Addiction, edited by Christine Watkins, Greenhaven Press, 2014. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, OVIC?u=tel_s_tsla&sid=OVIC&xid=e7f92bd5. Accessed 10 Oct. 2018. Originally published as “Deadly Alliance: How Big Tobacco and Convenience Stores Partner to Market Tobacco Products and Fight Life-Saving Policies,” 5 Mar. 2012.
  4. Oprinescu, Diana. “Increasing Tobacco Taxes Would Have Unintended Consequences.” Tobacco and Smoking, edited by Roman Espejo, Greenhaven Press, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, /OVIC?u=tel_s_tsla&sid=OVIC&xid=8eb51fff. Accessed 10 Oct. 2018. Originally published as “Tobacco Taxes: Problems, Not Solutions, for Taxpayers and Budgets,” National Taxpayers Union, 31 July 2013.
  5. “Sin Taxes.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2017. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ?u=tel_s_tsla&sid=OVIC&xid=91292d69. Accessed 10 Oct. 2018.
  6. The Times Editorial Board. “Increasing the Tobacco Tax Will Improve Health in Low-Income Communities.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ?u=tel_s_tsla&sid=OVIC&xid=29eec29e. Accessed 10 Oct. 2018. Originally published as “Vote Yes on Proposition 56 to Raise California’s Too-low Tobacco Tax,” Los Angeles Times, 30 Sept. 2016.
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An Issue Of Tobacco Taxes. (2019, Jan 05). Retrieved from