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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Killing Yourself Just Got More Costly

Where I live, the taxes on tobacco products were raised - again, this is about the fourth time they've been raised in the past 10 years or so - nearly $1.00 a pack, ostensibly to pay for education. Now, I'm all for the education of young people - even more for the education of those over 18 - and I live in a really stupid part of the South. I am not saying this to be ugly; this is just a fact. Where I live, the overwhelming majority of people, both young and old, are woefully uneducated. Many drop-out of highschool as early as the 9th-grade and very few of those who graduate ever attend college. So, on the surface, this seems like a sound idea.

But I really do not feel that, because I smoke, I should be held responsible for other peoples' children's education. Even if I had kids of my own, which I don't (yet - he said hopefully), I would not send them to public schools, so I don't want to be charged extra to pay for other peoples' children's schooling.

The UK is going through a somewhat similar issue when it comes to alcohol consumption. Apparently, the normalization of heavy drinking is leading to an increase in alcohol-related disease, especially among younger drinkers. Of 115 doctors who spoke to the BBC, 101 of them said there had been an increase in the number of patients they have treated involving alcohol-related problems. 77 said they had treated patients with "pretty catastrophic" damage who were under the age of 25.

So authorities are thinking of raising the taxes on alcohol in order to curb this disturbing trend. Of course, they do not want to dissuade casual and social drinkers from partaking, but they do want to lessen the medical impact on both younger drinkers, as well as society at-large. As one doctor notes, the burden to society is "...hugely greater for alcohol than for drugs, but the majority of money has always gone on drugs, partly because of the strong link to crime."

This is true - not just some factoid pot proponents like to point out. But is raising the taxes really the answer? I mean, people who seriously have alcohol problems are going to find a way to afford their "fix," regardless the cost. If anything, it seems like making the substance harder to acquire will actually increase crime, when you think about it.

As usual, large corporations seem to think the easiest route is a good "solution" to a complex problem. It seems obvious to me that more education is needed, but even with that, people who want to drink are going to drink, regardless! Like Denis Leary said about cigarettes, 'You can put a picture of a skull and crossbones on the pack and we'll be lining up around the block to get to those things!'

There are far too few pleasures in this life to keep taxing them away and denying them to everyone. Without being too flippant, I would imagine a pretty direct link could be made between the rising anger of the general Western population and the continual denial of simple pleasures.

What are these taxes going to be spent on anyway? If you tell me "educating young people as to the dangers of alcohol" or something equally ridiculous, then... I mean, it's all circuitous and it comes right back to itself, doesn't it? If you educate these young people as to the dangers of alcohol, you don't need to overly-tax them, so why are you overly-taxing them so that you can educate them as to the dangers of alcohol?

What I mean is that, people who want to drink are going to drink - even if they know it isn't good for them, even if they have to pay a little extra to do it. It's just Big Business at work; don't let them make you think they care whether or not we drink ourselves to death.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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