Tobacco Taxes

So, the New Zealand government has voted 118-4 to increase the sin tax on tobacco.  The funny thing is, the move was led by the Maori party, whose supporters contain a disproportionate number of smokers who probably don’t want a tax increase, and supported by the centre-right National party, who campaigned on an anti-nanny state platform.  I’m with Eric on this:

You know who I really feel bad for? The folks who voted National thinking they’d get less nanny-state as consequence. And, worse, the folks who campaigned for them on that basis. Think harder about it next time, guys.

While I know most politicians don’t feel the need to justify the passing of laws, surely there must be some among those 118 who think that there should be some sort of reason.

Do we need to increase tobacco taxes to pay for the costs of smoking on the health system? Nope: smokers pay more than their share. On that basis, we’d decrease the excise tax considerably.

Does ignorance among smokers as to the true health costs of smoking undermine the welfare-maximising tendency of free choice, meaning we need to force people to do what they’d do given full information. Nope. Even if you think ignorance justifies coercion, the fact is that people radically overestimate the health risks of smoking. If we wanted to encourage people to make the decisions they’d make if they were fully informed, we’d subsidize tobacco.

The real reason for increasing the excise tax on tobacco is a combination of arrogant paternalism and bigotry. Turia and Key think they know what’s best for you better than you do yourself and see smokers as disgusting deviants who must be punished. As Joseph Gusfield (writing about alcohol) says:

As his own claim to social respect and honor are diminished, the sober, abstaining citizen seeks for public acts through which he may reaffirm the dominance and prestige of his way of life. Converting the sinner to virtue is one way; law is another.

Anyone in favour of the increase care to offer another explanation?

3 Responses

  1. Interesting to know the case of New Zealand.
    In Nepal’s case, we have very high rates of taxes on tobacco and alcoholic beverages. But the sadder thing is no one even considers this issue debatable, the decision to raise taxes is usually unanimous and can be made by on the discretion of the cabinet!

  2. Visit Save money buy not paying tax and smoke as much as you want.

  3. Personal view. Smokers should be allowed the dignity of deciding their own social activities within the law. Decide their own destiny within the law. Smokers certainly pay more tax on this product than the rest of the population pay on individual products by comparison. Emissions from fuels, chemicals, domestic & industrial products contribute to air pollution. Analysis of air is the same as analysis of tobacco smoke. So choke us with industrial gasses because it makes money & while we tolerate deaths, crime, &abuse related to alcohol then flip the page to oil spills & nuclear power,chemical sprays & the food we eat, dazzel us with bullshit about smokers. Don’t you just get sick of sooky politicians who need to justify their position & income with a poke at the small fella because their easy to push around, & the big fish rub shoulders with these politicians. The notice me syndrome is in play when you shock the world with Ban Smoking in Prisons, whose going to pay for the consequences of this rediculous decision. Not the smoker I think. No smoke no Tax. At conception we are the recipient of our environment intra-utero & beyond. Smoking is not a healthy activity but nor is breathing, researchers investigate many products once encouraged, only to find they’re potentially unhealthy.
    I say leave the smoker alone, but encourage good practices of this habit.

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