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Tobacco taxes lead to other nanny government taxes

Tobacco taxes lead to other nanny government taxes

Wayne Hoffman
February 13, 2012
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February 13, 2012

A legislator who is willing to vote for higher tobacco taxes in the name of public health, for consistency sake, also has to support new taxes on other products that now have the attention of nanny government activists.

The objective to add common food products to the list under government control was on display in an article in the journal Nature by Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis of the University of California. Lustig, Schmidt and Brindis contend sugars added to food and drink are responsible for disease and death, making them no different from alcohol and tobacco. And because sugar is the same, it should be similarly regulated and taxed, we’re told.

“Passive smoking and drunk-driving fatalities provided strong arguments for tobacco and alcohol control, respectively. The long-term economic, health-care and human costs of metabolic syndrome place sugar overconsumption in the same category,” the authors write. State legislators who relish the idea of voting for a tax increase on smokers argue that smokers should pay more for the entitlement health care programs that serve them. “Smoking is bad for you and, therefore, the government should tax it more,” pro-tax legislators often say. Such legislators also realize that many more users of entitlement programs overeat but would never dare recommend an excise tax for food and beverages. At least not now.

Taxation is but one remedy. Our trio of statist academics from San Francisco wants to drive sugar-added products into obscurity, using the full power of the government to achieve their objective. “Other successful tobacco- and alcohol-control strategies limit availability, such as reducing the hours that retailers are open, controlling the location and density of retail markets and limiting who can legally purchase the products,” the authors write. “States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast-food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer’s markets.”

The authors note they’re on the outskirts of what is acceptable public policy in the U.S. But then again, they write, it wasn’t so long ago when other “crazy” public policy ideas were considered impossible. “With enough clamor for change, tectonic shifts in public policy become possible. Take, for instance, bans on smoking in public places and the use of designated drivers, not to mention airbags in cars and condom dispensers in public bathrooms,” write the authors. “These simple measures — which have all been on the battleground of American politics — are now taken for granted as essential tools for our public health and well-being. It’s time to turn our attention to sugar.”

Anti-tobacco and now anti-sugar activists think freedom is secondary to whatever the government’s public health objective du jour ought to be. They’ll force new taxes and new regulations down your throat for as long as you let them. Most of you reading this column won’t care whether the Legislature raises taxes on cigarettes because you don’t smoke. But if the nanny government busybodies — aided by nanny government state legislators — win this time, do you think they’ll ever stop finding ways to regulate our lives in the interest of public health? Where do you suppose they’ll go next? At what point will we say “no?” And, by then, will it be too late? Consider yourselves warned.

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