Cigarette Taxes Hit The Poor The Hardest
More proof that prohibition through taxation and regulation doesn’t work.
A study conducted on behalf of the New York State Department of Health has revealed that cigarette taxes hurt the poorest New Yorkers the most.
Low-income smokers, defined as individuals in households making less than $30,000 a year, spent an average of 23.6 percent of the annual household income on cigarettes. That number is up from 11.6 percent in 2003-2004 and in spite of increasing cigarette taxes imposed by the state and city governments.
By comparison, smokers in households making over $60,000 a year, spent an average of 2.2 percent of their household income on cigarettes.
I think most of us can agree that low-income households have better things to be spending 23.6% of their income on than tobacco. In fact, that so many low-income households spend so much of their money on tobacco might be a testament to just how lavish our social support programs have become. A household with that much to spend on tobacco is a household that could get by with less public assistance.
But I digress.
The larger point here is that “sin taxes” and other policies mean to regulate lifestyle choices simply don’t work. The government, at its various levels, has sold the public on all manner of taxes on lifestyle choices – from taxes on booze to tobacco to unhealthy foods – on the assumption that inflating the prices of the choices the government doesn’t want us to make will mean fewer of us making those choices.
And it may work that way for some, but by and large most are going to resist.
Tax policy should be used to raise revenues, not micromanage life choices.Tags: nanny statism, sin taxes, tobacco