I’ve been accused of never meeting a tax I didn’t like, but if so, there’s an exception to that rule. As I reveal in an editorial today, I think adding another dollar to the cigarette tax to pay for transportation improvements is just wrong.
Wrong because nicotine addiction is a disease, one that varies in severity based on several factors, among them, genetics. There are reasons some people have a harder time quitting than others, and considering it a character flaw deserving of punishment by higher taxes ignores science in order to elevate nanny-statism.
Making people who have lifestyle-related health conditions – or who make lifestyle choices that may someday lead to health conditions – pay more taxes is unfair, discriminatory and bad public health policy. Sick people need treatment, not punishment, and addiction – nicotine is considered more addictive than heroin – is best understood as a mental illness.
Yes, public health policies should discourage young people from taking up smoking in the first place. I’m all for restrictions on marketing and selling tobacco to minors, and I acknowledge that price can be a factor. I’m OK with all indoor places being smoke-free. What I’d really like to see is the FDA, which now has authority over tobacco products, force a gradual reduction in nicotine content, which I believe would make it easier for smokers to quit.
What really bothers me is hitting the cigarette addicts with extra taxes in order to raise revenue to repair roads and bridges and bail out the MBTA. That’s just picking on sick people for expenses everyone should cover.