Tobacco and the Government

I listened to an article on NPR yesterday afternoon that struck a chord. The FDA had set up some regulations that required tobacco companies to post graphic images (for example, healthy and smoke-damaged lungs) on tobacco packaging. Tobacco companies, of course, resisted this.

I have a simple solution. If tobacco is so bad (and there is no dispute that it isn’t), then stop making subsidy payments to tobacco farmers. Next, ensure that the taxes changed for each pack reflect the downstream health care cost for treating lung cancer and the other nasty stuff that tobacco use causes.

People would be free to do whatever they want with tobacco in this concept, and would be free of government interference in their decision. I think that if the true cost was factored in (from growing the stuff to paying for the downstream effects), then the cost might rise to the point that people would quit.

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2 Responses to “Tobacco and the Government”

  1. Tom Says:

    I have to agree that government subsidies of any type, including education, industry , commerce, farming, banking , the arts , etc. are counter-productive. All they lead to is a way for the faction currently in power to pay off their supporters.

    As far as tobacco is concerned, absolutely kill any subsidies. And while we’re at it, exactly why should the government be responsible for the medical treatment of self-induced disease? Smoking, chewing, etc, is a private matter as long as it’s done in private (in public, it becomes a pollution problem….). Private choices should not result in public expense, even if bleeding hearts feel they “have to” take care of them.

    There’s far too much of our government that seems dedicated (by one or the other parties) to controlling individual behaviors such as smoking instead of satisfying Constitutional mandates, such as national security (as in secure borders).

    As for health care, government needs to get out of health care altogether (including Medicare, and definitely Obamacare). The old charity/teaching hospital system worked pretty well until LBJ’s Great Society brought us more socialism (and the Vietnam War).

    It’s time for individuals to take responsibility for themselves again and quit expecting the government to be their mommy. And time for the mommy government to force the kids to grow up.

  2. Bill Hensley Says:

    Tom, I wish people would stop using the “Obamacare” label. The ACA wasn’t about health *care* at all, something ignored by the opposition to it (remember hysterical ranting about government types getting between us and our doctors, something already done, but by insurance companies, in the name of more profit). It is about trying to control costs by reforming insurance, which is a start, even if “Obamainsurancereform” isn’t quite as catchy.

    I don’t think that the government is going to be out of the health insurance/regulation or health care business any time soon. It makes sense to broadly attack the causes of runaway health care costs, to include 30% overhead in insurance companies, fraud of billions each year, horrible jury awards for medical malpractice, drug costs, and scrimping on wellness programs.

    There is a lot that I’ve already written about that drives the supposed 1/6 of the economy that is health care, to include the sham of “actual cost-vs.-writeoff”. Little or none of this affects CARE, only how that care is paid for, and if government should stop being a mommy for people, it damn sure needs to stop being a mommy to business, first.

    I see your point about self-inflicted disease; I agree with it in general, including having people who use tobacco share a greater part of their health care risk. But at some point, they have to be in the same larger risk pool(s) as the rest of us, so there would have to be some careful calibration of those two groups. I think that tobacco taxes being diverted to a health insurance fund could help with that (and maybe also encourage people to quit).

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