The Theory of Unintended Consequences, Tobacco Taxes (Opinion)

24 May

I’ll preface this post by saying I don’t smoke and encourage smokers to quit, because of the health risks. That said, every time I see tobacco taxes being raised, I feel a twinge of anger. Politicians love picking on smokers. Smokers don’t have the numbers to defend themselves by voting out the politicians who target them.

A new federal bill seeks to increase the federal excise tax on all tobacco products by 93%. Imagine walking into a store and seeing the sales tax rate up 93%. Imagine getting your property tax bill and having it increased by 93%. People would revolt!

The bill wants to cut down on the illegal smuggling of cigarettes. To do this, “the bill would require that packages of tobacco products be uniquely marked to aid law enforcement efforts to track and trace tax payments on tobacco products.” If I read that right, it means each and every pack of cigarettes gets a unique ID.

In Minnesota, the situation is worse. Smokers face a tobacco tax increase of $1.60 per pack.  When people perceive a law as unfair, they feel less need to follow it. In high-cigarette-tax states, the majority of cigarettes are smuggled in from low tax states. In New York, estimates are that 60% of the smokes are contraband.

The politicians claim their goal is to reduce smoking and promote health. They want to use the power of the tax laws to change citizen behavior. This is known as “social engineering.”

I agree with the comment in the link above: “Social engineering shouldn’t be taking place in the tax code. The tax code is designed to help fund government in as fair a way, across the board, as possible. Not to punish certain types of behavior or certain types of people.”

I don’t fully believe the “social engineering” claim. I think the politicians just want the money! I don’t think they really, honestly, legitimately care about “the people.” If I die of cancer tomorrow, the politicians won’t attend my funeral! Our Democratic governor wants to use cigarette tax dollars to help fund the new Vikings Stadium.

It doesn’t seem those two goals are consistent: Social engineering and desperately needing the money. If everybody stops smoking, how do we fund the Stadium?

The Feds uncovered a massive multimillion dollar cigarette smuggling scheme which was used to fund terrorism against America. This is a perfect example of “the theory of unintended consequences.”

By raising taxes, politicians want to discourage smoking and increase tax revenue. They wind up providing a lucrative funding mechanism for terrorism against America.

In writing this rant, I came upon a good commentary (To all those who think preppers are crazy.. ) by a prepper on Youtube:

Somebody attacked his growing of a garden and learning to grow tobacco. The attacker said that in a serious disaster, tobacco would be useless and have no value! That’s an amazing statement, which is contradicted by real human behavior in times of war and many other disasters.

Another prepper (L2Survive) experiments with growing tobacco as a comfort item or as an item of trade:

Here’s a good post by Yankee Prepper about storing an engine for several months. He talks about longer-term gas storage, echoing much of what I wrote in the book about gasoline types.


%d bloggers like this: