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SCHIP: Care Enough to Smoke? by Eric Novack

Given Matthew’s
crazy schedule as he builds his Health 2.0 empire, a brief note on the
resounding defeat of the Oregon initiative with tobacco tax money. What this means for the debate in Washington is uncertain. Pundits on the left and right seem to think that it will have little effect on the SCHIP debate—few, if any, democrats or republicans will likely
change course. But you cannot argue with this — from youtube:

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6 replies »

  1. “Eric and Mike, not to mention the makers of this video, need lessons in how to win friends and influence people.”
    No, they don’t. They won.

  2. Taxing behaviors you want to reduce, and reducing taxes on behaviors you want to increase is a proven method to change behavior through policy. To suggest otherwise is dishonest. To suggest most Americans don’t grasp the concept of diminishing returns on such policies infantilizes your audience.
    Eric and Mike, not to mention the makers of this video, need lessons in how to win friends and influence people.

  3. Mike, I think the proposal to tax smoking and not look to more broad based funding shows more political spinelessness than irony. It’s more of, “lets don’t tax you and don’t tax me, lets tax that man behind that tree”. As I’ve said before, Americans really do like taxes, they just like other peoples taxes. I have no problem taxing smokers, but using smoking to fund SCHIP may mean, if successful, the funding source will be a diminishing one. Maybe we should tax bullets to fund SCHIP, that way the funding is an escalating one with no end in site. Can you hear the NRA’s ad, “Go out and kill someone, it’s for the kids.”

  4. I have to point out the beautiful irony of government pushing for people to stop smoking and then suggesting that the way to fund what may be a critical health care component is to tax smoking. This ad, regardless the bias of the producer, makes a spot on point.

  5. Wow Eric, aligning yourself with the Tobacco Industry to get out the truth – now that’s credible. We all know how honest and ethical big tobacco is and how concerned they are with truth and the health of Americans.
    So Eric, how would you fund SCHIP? But wait, didn’t you say you’re not in favor of SCHIP no matter how it is funded.
    So were Oregonians voting for cheap cigarettes, a broader funding of SCHIP or no to SCHIP?
    Read this on SCHIP and see who’s distorting (at best) the facts:
    http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071018/OPINION01/710180413/1068/OPINION

  6. Oh, I can argue with it.
    The function of a sin tax is not to have more sin, but less, and to use as a mechanism something which is a net gain rather than a net drain on state government.
    If this ad were right, you could just as well say that a liquor tax means that the state needs people to drink more. That’s nonsense. If the tax is successful in bringing down drinking, the state can turn to another source of funding to make up any difference needed.
    Here’s another way of seeing how silly this ad is: if taxing things that are bad for you is bad because it means the state (or your neighbors) will encourage you to do more of it, then taxing things that are good for you is a good idea, because the state will then encourage you to do more of it. So let’s raise taxes on fresh vegetables and walks in the park! That ought to increase, er, no.
    Of course, the impact of the smoking tax will be modest in terms of reducing smoking, as all sin taxes are. A few tens of thousands may quit who wouldn’t otherwise. That’s good for them, but not enough to seriously undermine the tax as a source of revenue. You can also build these projections into your financial models to reduce the element of surprise.
    Also, from the point of view of the overall economy, do we even know whether the net impact of taxing things like smoking and drinking is positive or negative? Maybe those quitters become more productive workers (presenteeism will go down when they don’t have to take so many smoke breaks), and thus contribute more to the economy. Maybe they even contribute more taxable income to the economy than is lost by no longer smoking.
    Did the people who made that ad even bother to look into such things? I would guess not, because it seems that what motivates them is an anti-tax agenda, not an anti-smoking agenda or a desire to find a stable source of funding for S-CHIP.
    This ad is 10% clever and 90% dishonest.

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