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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about "sin taxes" and healthcare in New Orleans.

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More taxes on cigarettes

Regarding the May 14 Opinion piece, "The tyranny of taxing sin": This commentary was misleading about tobacco taxes. In fact, smoking-related costs in the United States far exceed total cigarette tax revenues. For example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that smoking-caused healthcare costs and narrowly defined productivity losses total $10.28 per pack sold in the US. But the average federal, state, and local cigarette tax on a pack is less than $2.40.

It is also bizarre for author Patrick Fleenor to claim that productivity losses and healthcare costs from smoking are borne primarily by smokers themselves – ignoring the enormous detrimental impact on employers and our economy.

Similarly, Mr. Fleenor ignores the tens of thousands of nonsmoker deaths each year caused by secondhand smoke in his odd assertion that smokers pay their own way. He also fails to consider the substantial health risks to innocent children from parental and other household smoking. Nor does he mention the large number of spontaneous abortions and stillborn births caused by smoking and secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy.

Some of that might be excused by Fleenor focusing only on monetary costs and not on unnecessary harm done to innocents. But any evaluation of tobacco tax increases (or other so-called sin taxes) must look beyond just money and consider other impacts.

In the case of tobacco tax increases, the evidence is clear. They raise government revenues, prevent kids from starting to smoke, and prompt existing users to quit. Accordingly, tobacco tax increases also work effectively to reduce the still enormous number of harmful costs and deaths caused by smoking and other tobacco use.

Thankfully, one of the beneficial side effects of state and local governments raising their tobacco tax rates to address current budget deficits will be a less smoky and more healthy and productive society.





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