Sunday, February 10, 2008

Good Thing Hypocrisy Doesn't Cause Cancer

I don't know anything about smokeless tobacco being safer than cigarettes, as Professor Brad Rodu says in the Lexington Herald Leader, but I think his column raises an important point about the economics of taxing people into various forms of compliance.

Radu says we should cut the tax on smokeless tobacco to encourage people to switch to it from cigarettes:
"Put in simpler and conservative terms, smokeless use carries less than 2 percent of the health risk of smoking. A rational tobacco tax policy would set taxes accordingly. If lawmakers raise the cigarette tax to $1, the tax on smokeless tobacco should be two cents."

Radu is a smokeless tobacco industry researcher, so we could be cynical and suppose he is just trying to keep his ox from getting gored. But that pales in comparison to the cynicism of those who claim in the same breath that higher cigarette taxes will cut smoking while raising revenues.

The cigarette tax increase bill also raises taxes on smokeless tobacco. For the children and, one imagines, the added revenue.

Wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective to refuse KCHIP benefits to children of smokers? That would be a serious incentive for some parents to either quit smoking or figure out a way to take care of their own kids.

Then we could keep cigarette taxes low to encourage border residents of other states to keep coming over to buy their smokes in Kentucky and we might have a few more welfare dollars to make sure those who really need the help can get it.