Tobacco tax recovers costs to society

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Attention smokers who complain about Juneau's new cigarette tax (see Shockley's letter to the editor on Oct. 20): You're in denial. That's understandable, because denial is a classic symptom of addiction. There are few drugs (and certainly none of them legal) more addictive than nicotine. Nevertheless, we need to confront you yet again with reality.

The facts are that smoking is a burden on society. We are all too familiar with the undesirable impacts of second-hand smoke on the rest of us, with its huge health costs and general intrusion on our rights to clean air and a healthy environment. But even if smokers only light up in the privacy of their own homes, smoking still burdens society with enormous costs. Endless scientific studies have proven that if you smoke, all other issues regarding your health are nearly insignificant in comparison. Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are the four leading killer diseases in the U.S. now, and all are greatly exacerbated by smoking. A multitude of other health problems are similarly related to smoking: each of them represent a cost to the rest us of in terms of lost productivity on the job, rising health care rates, and a host of other costs associated with taking care of the infirm and the families of those who have been lost to smoking related diseases.

So don't tell us that taxing cigarettes is discriminatory, nor is it primarily an attempt to raise taxes to support general government functions. Juneau has raised its taxes in the hopes of discouraging anti-social behavior and at the same time attempt to recoup some of the burdensome expenses placed on society by smokers. That's simply smart policy.

Bart Watson


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