April 13th, 2009
12:28 PM ET

Banning or taxing bad health habits to cut health care costs

By Andrea Kane
CNNhealth.com Producer

Two articles have recently come out tackling the twin pink elephants in the room: one is an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine in favor of taxing sugary drinks (to reduce consumption and possibly raise revenue for anti-obesity programs), the other is a story in Time magazine making the case for an outright ban on cigarettes.

The views in each make plain old sense: Ban or tax that which we KNOW is bad for our health to improve health and cut runaway health care costs.

In the case of cigarettes, the writer notes that cigarette smoking costs an “estimated $100 billion in health-care costs… annually.” In the case of sugary beverages, the authors write, they “may be the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic” (pointing out that the only studies that found no link between sugary-drink consumption and obesity are – surprise! – those funded by the beverage industry).They estimate obesity-related problems cost about $79 billion annually – about half of which is footed by the American taxpayer (you and me).

On the one hand, their arguments make me morally uncomfortable: Who are we to tell other people what to do? Isn’t it too “Big Brother”? Too paternalistic - especially when we are talking about taking steps that will affect the so-called underclass (aka: “the poor”) most? But in both cases, the writers note that poor people have the most to benefit from cutting back on sugary soft drinks and quitting smoking. This is especially true in the case of smoking since “[c]igarettes, to an extent, have become an indicator of lower socioeconomic status.” Yet, nobody likes to be told how to live or wants to feel coerced into any course of action – however “good for you” it might be.

But on the other hand, why can’t we just admit that advocates for taxing and banning these vices have a point? Banning smoking WILL reduce cancer and cardiovascular (and a whole host of other) deaths. Making soda expensive WILL force people (especially poor people, who presumably also can’t afford all the lifelong medications they’ll have to take for diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) to drink water and thus cut out 250 to 300 empty calories a day, which over the course of a year – not to mention a lifetime - really do add up.

What also adds up are the costs: the costs associated with caring for the sick and the costs associated with lost productivity due to illness. Make no mistake, the American taxpayer (you and I) will have to pay one way or another - via higher health-care costs, the inability to get affordable insurance, or perhaps through cuts to programs such as Social Security, public education, work training programs (or the arts, national parks, etc.) in order to fund the ballooning costs associated with Medicaid/Medicare.

So what is the right answer? Where do your rights (to smoke, to drink liquid calories, to do what you want with your own body) end and my rights (to breathe clean air, to not have to pay for someone else’s problems) begin? I want to hear what you think.

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soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Alex Lickerman

    All societies, in order to function, have rules based on the notion that "your right to fling out your fist ends at my nose." No one is perfectly free even in the U.S., arguably the most free country in the world. So do we simply try to discourage bad habits by making them more expensive or decide as a society the cost of its individual members continuing in large numbers to enjoy these bad habits is in essence punching the rest of us in the nose and make them illegal? Perhaps the answers will be different for different habits. Having treated hundreds of patients over the years for smoking-related illnesses, and watching many of those patients die horrible deaths–as well as watching young people continue to pick up the habit despite the widespread understanding that smoking shortens life–I personally wouldn't mind cigarettes being made illegal. A controversial position, I know, but our health care system is crumbling and the burden of the cost of managing the results of many of these bad habits is not a small part of the reason why.

    Alex Lickerman, M.D.

    April 13, 2009 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Martaamos

    The paramount problem that we are facing today is the breakdown of the protocol of The Constitution.
    To deny the liberties and freedoms (whether it be by a simple tax or banning an activity) is not only an infringement of the rights provided to us by The Founding Fathers, but it also leaves our system dependent on revenue generated by the habits and whims of our consuming population.
    The size and scope of government is the core reason for many of today's problems including healthcare.

    April 14, 2009 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dennis

    All I see is government greed. We, the people, didn't have anything to do with placing and keeping those products on the market. The folks that did market those products have already paid billions of dollars to state governments. But this product that is eagerly labled as a major health hazard remains on the market. Then the governments (politicians) use that settlement to throw money at government schemes that have failed due to their own mistakes, like education. Those states did not die of cancer, yet they seem to get all the money – to supposedly make up for their cost of treating all the smokers. I don't think too many, if any, suffering and dying smokers saw a direct cash benefit for themselves. Greedy governments profit from doing the jobs they are supposed to do with our tax dollars, because they don't want to do their job within a reasonable budget. I see no evidence that schools are billions of dollars better off than they would have otherwise been. Now the states want bigger and bigger "sin" taxes. That simply means they are only interested in the money. They don't care about us, yet they would use our suffering and deaths to generate their income. Sure sounds like greed to me.

    April 14, 2009 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Thomas McGuire

    I completely agree with both doctors here, and from a much more personal note, after having buried a number of my family members from cancer (at least one definetely smoking-related), I think tobacco is every bit the pandemic that AIDS or Avian Flu is, and statistically, the numbers for tobacco related death completely dwarf almost every other major cause of death in America combined. Don't believe me? Check out the Center for Disease Controls mortality studies and educate yourself on the ugly truth.

    Not to mention finding a cute, single girl that doesn't smoke anymore is flat out getting tough. Girls that smoke stink like hell and are impossible to kiss! Get a clue and quit, ladies! Just brushing your teeth doesn't freaking hide that nastyness!

    April 14, 2009 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dan Gainor

    So let's see. Obama wants mandatory national health care. And Lickerman wants to mandate what we can consume. So what happens if person under mandate a refuses mandate b? Do you then take away mandate a? Because I'll take up smoking tomorrow to get the government and fascists like Lickerman to leave me alone.

    April 14, 2009 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Brandon Hawkins

    Let's start with cigarettes, the argument that it will save us money is flawed. People who live longer cost more money, so the net gain in taxpayer money is probably miminal if non-existant. I'm all for banning cigarettes, I like other none smokers am very tired of having to constantly get a puff of smoke in my face everywhere I go. I live in an apartment and my neighbor smokes all day long, he might as well smoke right in my apartment. Moraly banning anything is dubious at best, people have the right to choose, but as the above poster said peoples rights end at the point where they infringe on others rights. The majority of public places already ban cigarettes, if the government regulated them enough that I was at a lower risk of having smoke thrown in my face, I really wouldn't care if someone smoked, it's none of my concern if it isn't directly effecting me. And as I said financialy I don't think it does effect me, healthier people live longer, and therefore require more taxpayer money in the long run (medicare, social security). I have had relatives die of lung cancer directly related to smoking, but if you took their cigarettes away they would probably have just turned to alcohol, taken that away and here comes the illegal drugs. People with a tendency to use substances as a stress releiver or a way to feel good will find a substance they can use. Educating them and making them truely understand that in the end it's not worth it is a far better goal for our society to try to attain.

    Soda on the other hand is completely different. I am 5'8 and 125 lbs, I drink 2 soda's a day if not more. Yes they are "bad" for me, but I work out, I eat right, I just want a nice fizzy drink every once in a while. Puting a tax on me to pay for others bad habbits isn't moral at all. Soda does not cause obesity. There is a correlatoin but no causation. Smoking does cause cancer, as a sole contributor. Soda does not cause obesity as a sole contributor. Soda can not be lumped into the same category as cigarettes in terms of their detrimental effects on your health, or their effects on society.

    April 14, 2009 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Rose

    Cigarettes and alcohol area already taxed to the max. If they took the taxes they collected on cigarettes and put it towards heath care instead of other Government programs then there would be little heath care cost. Taxes on cigarettes from a pack a day smoker (My Husband) in NY, is more than my heath issuance takes out of my paycheck a week. So what gives? The taxes he pays should go directly to heath care so if he is in the hospital 20yrs from now the financial effect will be minimum. But where does this money go?

    April 15, 2009 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Desmond R

    What it all sums up to is this. Basically, "YOUI" don't like what "I" am doing to "MY BODY" so "YOU'RE" going to make sure that "I AM PUNISHED FOR IT". My response, "MIND YOUR OWN (EXPLETIVE DELETED) BUSINESS!". Do not deprive me of my inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    April 15, 2009 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Desmond R

    You know what? Let's raise the taxes on sugar. Let's say $10 a lb. We all know sugar is bad for you. It rots your teeth, it leads to unhealthy eating habits and obesity. So let's tax the heck out of it so that sugared drinks and candy are too expensive for us and especially our young children to consume. But why stop there? Let's raise the taxes on red meat. Red meat causes a whole host of health problems. Let's make it so expensive that people will make better choices in their eating habits. But why stop there? Let's raise the taxes on cooking oil. Fried foods are very unhealthy. If you can't afford the oil to fry your foods then you might consider healthier alternatives like baking or grilling. Although, tons of red meats are usually cooked on out door grills. So let's raise the taxes on grills, propane and charcoal. We can't have those people grilling unhealthy red meats like steak, beef franks and burgers. This should help curb the rise in obesity, heart attacks and diabetes. But why stop there? Let's raise the taxes on cars and gasoline. Cars and gasoline pollute our atmosphere and make it unhealthy to breath. Not to mention the fact that those who drive more often walk less. Depriving themselves of some healthy exercise. But why stop there? Let's raise the taxes on miniskirts and provacative clothing because women in the oldest profession often wear them and they are known to spread a whole host of std's. But why stop there? Let's tax anything and everything that we do not like about others and that we feel is in their best interest.

    April 15, 2009 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Alex Lickerman

    Dan Gainor: Calling me a fascist with such obviously derogatory intent suggests you lack the intellectual capacity to have an honest debate about the issue. If I'm wrong and you'd rather debate than throw stones, I'm happy to do so. You're underlying premise–same as many commenters here–is that you should be able to do as you please as long it doesn't harm me and I should be able to do as I please as long as it doesn't harm you. I completely agree with that sentiment, but disagree that your smoking doesn't harm me. Brushing aside the argument that second-hand smoke will harm me (of course you could easily limit your smoking to indoors away from me), the possibility that your smoking ends up costing our society, and therefore me as a taxpayer, is very real. Brandon Hawkins above thinks he knows that the cost savings to our health care system if no one smoked would be offset by the cost generated by people living longer, but I don't think anyone has actually done that calculation to know if that's true (though I could be wrong, Brandon didn't cite the source of contention). I'm a huge fan of preserving the rights of the individual and keeping the government out of my life, but where the line is drawn between behavior that harms only me and behavior that harms others is growing increasingly more difficult to define. I could label you a fascist for insisting you have a right to my hard-earned money to pay for the treatments you'll require from willfully harming yourself by enjoying a habit we've known for decades kills people.

    Alex Lickerman

    April 15, 2009 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Eric

    While I detest smoking and agree that obesity is a huge problem, why not instead reward those who practice good health habits. We need a "Healthy America" program

    People who choose to participate in a "Healthy America" program could take bi-annual physical exams and tests to demonstrate they live healthy lifestyles. For example, they can have their body fat %, BMI, waist circum., cholesterol, BP, HDL, & LDL measured. They would also perform the same fitness tests used in the army – 2 mile run, pushups and situps in 2 min. If their scores are good enough, they get either a huge tax credit, or better yet, be entitled to free health care. If you choose not to participate in the "Healthy America" program, you can continue to buy your health insurance just like you do today.

    Start rewarding those who actually make an effort to lead healthy lives and let those who don't pay for their choice to have COPD, hypertension, and diabetes.

    April 16, 2009 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kirt Sloan

    It is not just sugar that causes obesity it is the unsatiable appetite. High fructose corn syrup is the culprit of this! Fructose does not satiate hunger....period. Drink a soft drink with real sugar and you are full.....drink a soft drink with HFC syrup and you want 6 more! Stop all the nonsense and get this published. Ask any nutritionist!

    April 17, 2009 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. alice

    Our society already taxes the substances which are the most harmful to our health: cigarettes and alcohol. While it would probably make for a more perfect world to remove everything that is harmful to our health, banning cigarettes and taxing sugary drinks is just crazy. The every time our country bans a vice it creates a black market and fosters the growth of violence and crime; look at the drug problems we face now or the prohibition. Banning sugaring drinks, are you freaking kidding, why don't you also ban sugar, cookies, chocolate, starbucks drinks, chips, and candy all of these items also contain wayyyyy more sugar than we need in our diets and could also be a factor in the obesity epidemic, or it could be that some people over eat and need to real learn some portion control. As a woman in her twenties in size zero pants you'd expect me to have never tough the fatty and deep fried or the regular soda, but i love all of these things, in fact I probably have fried chicken three times a week and am completely addicted to soda and other super sugary drinks. Then again I do manage to avoid the typical pitfalls of most American eaters, I eat slowly and chew my food, I don't horde food on my plate I take a single portion and if I am still hungry after that is gone I'll get up from the table and get more. Don't ban the vices ban stupid people who have less self control than a dog in meat shop.

    April 20, 2009 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. GF, Los Angeles

    I don't smoke (actually hate it) but feel a person has the right to pollute their body with it if they choose just like a person can eat a high sugar and high fat diet and not have to exercise a day in their life. Both are bad and will cost the taxpayers money for their long term care but who am I to tell someone what they can and cannot consume? The only danger is to themselves (except of course the occasional brush fire caused by a smoker who flicks his cigarrette out the window). I might add I've had high cholesterol for the past 6 years and I'm only in my 30's. I eat fast food at most once a month and I exercise a minimum of 3 times a week and I wear a size 4. I have overweight co-workers who don't have high cholesterol so we can't just ban sugar because as a skinny person with high cholesterol, I may one day be depending on government assistance for my healthcare.

    April 20, 2009 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Wren

    I just worry about starting us down the road of banning anything that is "bad". It just reminds me a little too much of the movie "Demolition Man". One by one everything that isn't "good" for you is "bad" and hence Illegal. Alcohol is bad for you, drunk driving and liver damage, but the government realized decades ago that banning it won't work. People should be made aware of the dangers of activities such as smoking and then they have to make the decision themselves to quit or continue. I also think it's important that smokers pay higher premiums for insurance, etc. Just like everyone else they have to take responsibility for their actions. By chosing to smoke, they are chosing to get cancer, etc. and should shoulder the responsibility for that chose. If you don't want to get sick, don't smoke.

    April 22, 2009 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. joanne dimarco

    I believe the smokers are treated unfairly. People who drink alcohol care for children, higher rate of domestic violence, drinking and driving accidents and fatalities. Yet, they continue to service alcholol at football, baseball, soccer, games, etc. What about people with diabetes are the insurance companies/state going to follow them around to make sure they're not eating donuts? What about people who had heart attacks...are they going to make sure they don't eat french fries. Where does it end? I pay 145.00 a week for my health care and I don't want anyone telling me what to do except my DOCTOR. When are health care costs are rising due to those who are uninsured whether they are illegal immigrants or US citizens. Don't single out any group because you're going to open pandora's box. Leave the health care to the doctors and the insurance companies and states/government should stay out of it. What about people who are healthy in every sense of the word but are gentically inclined for example breast cancer. Do we charge them more. It has been proven as one person stated it costs more the longer people live. All I ask, at the riski of being redundant...leave the health care between me and my doctor.

    April 24, 2009 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tamsin Barraclough

    Who are we to tell people what to do? We are the ones paying for the healthcare of those who care nothing for their own health or anyone else's. If those who choose to destroy their health by deliberately courting obesity and lung cancer knew that they would have to pay their own medical bills in full as a consequence of their own suicidal behaviors, in a generation or two the healthcare system will be less burdened by the death-wishes of those who don't care what happens to them and could redirect itself to caring for those who are ill and injured through no fault of their own. The companies who manufacture products that kill people should have been shut down decades ago.

    April 25, 2009 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Amy

    Alice said that fat people are just people who are out of control and need to learn portion control. Apparently she is not abreast of the lastest studies that link obesity to genetics, environment and in some cases even viruses. Just because someone is overweight, doesn't mean that they are out of control, or have no self control and just because someone is thin doesn't mean that they have control. If you eat fried chicked multiple times a week, then you don't have control...you just happen to have a higher metabolism that can process all that fat and grease and get rid of it.

    Lets look at people with actual medical problems. Diabetes, if you aren't overweight when you get it, chances are you will become overweight because most of the meds used to treat it cause weight gain. How about people with hypothyroidism...because their thyroid is underactive and no matter how little they eat, they tend to either gain weight or just can't loose any, are they out of control? What about women with polycystic ovaries? One of the symptoms of this disorder is weight gain, so if you suffer from this and are overweight; which more likely than not you are, does that mean that you are just a fat slob that can't control themself? I find it horrible that people can sit in judgement of other people and actually open their mouth and give their opinion without knowing what they are actually talking about. Step down off your high horse long enough to read the acutal medical literature so that you can have an informed opinion and then maybe people will take you seriously.

    As for taxing everyone and everthing to death, it's never going to end. Once they have forced everyone to stop smoking and drinking sugared beverages and are not making the revenue through them, what are they going to tax next? Maybe that is what we should be asking ourselves. Instead of sitting here and touting why fat people should be taxed and smokers should be taxed and assuming that soda makes you fat and cigarettes are going to give you cancer...once no one smokes or drinks sugared beverages, what's next? Your favorite brand of ice cream, how would you feel if they taxed that so high you couldn't afford it? I just wonder what's next? How much control are we going to allow the government to have over our personal lives?

    April 26, 2009 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. robert

    i dont smoke cigarettes and im down to one can of soda a day.

    health insurance companies dont care about your health, they care about lessening the cost per patient which increases their profit.

    ban cigarettes and they find some excuse as to why your rates did NOT go down.

    all this talk of taxation needs to stop and maybe the concept of saving money be inacted.

    want to save us some money? limit the amount of time and amount of money somebody can get while on welfare. put an end to the free ride.

    April 27, 2009 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Anna

    What?! That's just what we need; our jails full of non-violent tobacco users. Our jails are already full of non-violent drug users and our police let rapists and murderers go free so they can bust people for having pot.

    And, while I do not drink sugary pop often, I do enjoy one every now and then. It's lack of self-control that causes obesity, not the sugary drinks themselves.

    April 27, 2009 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. ET

    People need to wake up. Its not about health & safety, its about tax income. We can all argue that we have or know someone who died from cancer. Point being is that nobody really knows for 100% sure what caused the cancer. If you were diagnosed with lung cancer, the doctor will just ask a series of questions...ever smoke? occupational hazards? work in a steel mill or coal mine? etc. I know people that have never smoked, eat good, don't drink, and still ended up with cancer. Others that do smoke, 89 years old, and fit as can be for their age. The finger of blame is to smokers when there are far worse things we eat, drink and inhale everyday.

    Another example of taxes are the electronic cigarettes on the market. Its not tobacco, but looks like real smoking and you get a hit of nicotine. For many, its a great product. You can even smoke in places where you could not before because there is no "real smoke". From every health aspect its better for you than actually smoking real smoke. BUT, what does that mean? The government gets less tax revenue from tobacco smokers because they switch to something they can enjoy anywhere, but without the 3000+ byproducts of smoking a real tobacco product...and its not taxable! Now the FDA steps in and says they are not sure if its safe to inhale nicotine and has blocked the imports of this product until further review (which will take years). Strange, don't we already inhale nicotine in cigarettes? Its not about safety, its TAX REVENUE.

    Well to all the people who fought to ban smoking, raise taxes on tobacco and didn't realize how much us smokers paid for government programs...this article is all about YOU. Smokers cannot be taxed much futher and maintain the same welfare programs you have enjoyed on our buck. Its now time that the government starts to look at things YOU enjoy, the non-smoker, because our numbers are much less and now YOU are the majority that will be taxed on things you enjoy.

    Sugar, Coffee and Energy Drinks are just the start. As a smoker, I vote YES to taxing the non-smokers for a change. Lets see those Twinkies go from $1.25 a 2-pack to $4.99 and keep some school kids from weighing twice what they should.

    April 27, 2009 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Henry Dickson

    Any public health model that focuses exclusively on the quantity of life while ignoring the quality of life is fundamentally flawed. Since when is it written that the sole criterion of "health" is longevity? Sez who? If cigarettes are to be banned, I would also like to see a "ban" on the truly incestuous relationship that exists between doctors and pharmaceutical companies, and a "ban" on the fiction that so-called medical science is in any demonstsrable manner either objective or disinterested. Keep on lowering the "acceptable" limits for cholesterol, for example - or, for that matter, for hypertension - and the corollary is that millions and millions more people will "need" to start taking statins and antihypertensives, which is VERY nice for the drug companies. In the psychiatric field it's even worse: millions of so-called "mentally ill" patients with questionable decision-making abilities cramming fifteen or twenty different psychotropic medications a day down their throats - many of them profoundly toxic - in the interests of (ah, yes, I almost forgot) "mental health." On my shelf, I have the psychiatrist's bible, the DSM-IV-R; when it comes out in May 2012, the DSM V will almost certainly be bigger and fatter than its predecessor, and the DSM VI, God forbid, will be bigger and fatter than that, because, guess what - so long as the psychiatric profession continues to concoct new "disorders," the drug companies will come up with new medications to "treat" them. The tobacco companies may be bad, yes, but the pharmaceutical industry - which bombards our TV screens with nightly "talk to your doctor" propaganda, almost all of it based on FEAR - is worse in the utterly cynical way that it manages to dress up unalloyed greed as "medical science." Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    April 27, 2009 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Al

    Government causes a great deal of pain and suffering and cost the the taxpayers a great deal of money. Lest ban government!

    April 27, 2009 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Chris Allen

    Eric's idea of a "Healthy American Program" where proven healthy consumers gain rewards is far better than banning and heavy taxation efforts-it's the first genuinely good idea I've seen, in efforts to counter unhealthy habits. (And btw, far more people increase healthcare costs by being obese, than those who smoke... and their diseases of heart attack, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and more are just as lethal as the ones smoking causes in some individuals.

    I disagree with the person who said tobacco and alcohol are already taxed to the max-that's true of tobacco, but not alcohol. And the other leg of that agency, firearms, hasn't seen the excessive taxation at all, even though many die every year through accidental shooting deaths.

    But back to topic: if you are upset over "carrying someone else's heathcare issues because of their bad habits," first, it's stupid to look at one bad set and ignore another (tobacco, obesity); second, why don't you start lobbying to get a *reward* for following good health practices that will offset your particular "cost"?

    Then people are free to do as they wish, and your "extra cost" vanishes. Plus, it provides an incentive for more people to pursue healthy habits.

    April 28, 2009 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Ben

    Alice alluded to this above: When has banning anything actually worked? It's simply a matter of supply and demand...if there is demand, there will be people who will supply it regardless of whether it is illegal. I point to alcohol during prohibition and any number of recreational drugs....any one of which you can purchase in a matter of minutes assuming you are in a larger city.

    Tax it? People will simply cut back to offset the additional costs or the items will become expensive enough to where the black market can compete. Either way the intended idea of inreasing revenue becomes moot.

    These are complex problems that require complex solutions. I'm not going to pretend that I have the answers but I can say with certainty that those being proposed are not them.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. rem

    As a smoker I will not begin to defend my habbit. It is a nasty habbit that all smokers are aware of. In a smoker's life there have been attempts to quit as a new year's resolution, or even when one has a child. But, all it takes, all it really needs to manifest that habbit again; is one whiff, one stressful day, one moment that we remember a good time and think "man, I really miss it."

    The U.S. government has made a strong legal attempt to hault the infections habbit of smoking. There are no more T.V. adds (that stopped years ago), but the problem is not only by one's exposure to advertisment rather the social environment. I personally appologize if my habbit costs others retirment plans. I too am a young working professional who is dealing with saving as much as I can, and planning for my own illness. However, I do feel that it is in our bill of rights to choose.

    My maind issue with this perplexed situation is more than the principal of choice, but the self-righteousness of those parenting my activities. Taxing does not slow down my smoking. The only thing that is going to stop me, is great support, a loving family, and my own strong will to face that difficult dicision.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Robert Clarke

    This is directed to Chris Allen. There are two things that happen in every persons life. They are born and they will die. That being said, when most people die it will have medical costs. Very expensive medical costs. So I ask you, does it matter if someone dies of cancer, diabetes, liver disease, or a heart attack? No matter how you look at it you are going to die, and the medical costs will be there.

    Chances are that the longer a person lives the more medical costs they will incur. Based on your line of reasoning, the government should tax gay males because the have a higher chance of contracting HIV.

    April 28, 2009 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sheree Krider

    How about eradicating the "coal ash ponds" and the manufacturing companies pollution in our air and water for a start to getting people healthier and reducing health costs.

    I live in Louisville, KY where the air we breathe is NOT suitable for a cockroach let alone people. Yet, the air quality standards go down so that manufacturing and dumping can go up.

    Leave my personal issues alone and concentrate on the Corporate Capitalists agendas to "move our food bowl around where ever they want us to be".

    April 29, 2009 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sheree Krider

      I had to do a followup to this comment I made because as I noticed I had said eradicate the coal ash ponds. Well, I was wrong about that one for sure, YOU CANNOT ERADICATE a coal ash pond. So anyway, after going for a drive through the area of Louisville's "Station's" as they call them, took some pics, which ironically enough do not do the situation justice....But my point is that since you cannot remove all of it, you have to remove the people from the immediate area, and plant the whole area in industrial hemp to help clean the air....It's not much but it is a start....TAX THE COAL ASH

      August 14, 2010 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  29. CyberRevolution

    The fact is, without the tobacco industry, this country wouldn't be where it is today. Since the article states that mostly only poor people smoke, doesn't this violate the whole "no taxation without representation" thing? Nobody represents poor people and we all know that. From the public health care POV, well, were the health care industry not being inflated by the health insurance industry, health care wouldn't be a problem. The amount of revenue generated by the the tobacco industry would be sorely missed were there to be a ban placed. Haven't we banned enough plants already? Who is Uncle Sam, or anyone else for that matter, to tell me what I shouldn't smoke, drink, eat? When did we become so incredibly dependent on our govt that we need them to tell us how to live every little aspect of our lives? Also, let me toss this in...cancer isn't nearly as big of a problem as we are led to believe. If you take the time to do the research, you'll see that the media, the FDA, and the health care industry has suppressed several natural cures (not treatments) over the last 40 years.

    May 6, 2009 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Hermann

    The logic in this article is flawed. Banning bad habits will certainly not cut health care costs. In fact just the opposite will happen. Health care costs will skyrocket:




    May 26, 2009 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Dick Samson

    We are currently subsidizing (the reverse of taxing) things that end up being very bad for us: corn and other mono-cultures that, once processed, end up as the empty sugar or starch in sodas, fast-food buns, and highly-processed food products of all types.

    Taxing one of the empty-calorie end products, sodas, is a trivial step toward reversing the balance. We are NOW telling people what to eat: stuff that's bad for us.

    I'd be happy NOT "telling" people, through a tax, they shouldn't consume sodas, if we stopped telling them TO consume sodas (and fast food and junk food and the medications for reversing all the ill effects) through our current obscene governmental subsidies and commercial food-drink-drug practices.

    June 13, 2009 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Edgardo Marcantonio

    12th Science Results 2014


    September 17, 2016 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply

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