Increase of the Tax on Cigarettes

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The central issue in the article is whether or not the government should be allowed to increase the tax on cigarettes. Contemporary liberal society is governed on the basis that autonomy, human rights, and liberties will be respected, but also that the government will care for its citizens. Upon careful analysis of addiction to nicotine, the effects this addiction will have on the population, and the obligations of the government, one will find that the government does not have the right to increase taxes on cigarettes.

The government has the right to interfere in tobacco sales as long as the autonomy of the individual is impaired. In this case the government is allowed to interfere, because government is itself established in order to protect the interests of its citizens and be paternalistic. When something impairs the autonomy of individuals and they are no longer able to make rational decisions, the government (and citizens) are required to interfere in the interests of the impaired individuals’ own wellbeing. There is almost no debate that individuals can become addicted to smoking, and addiction impairs autonomy in that the addicted individual cannot be considered rational when they persist in smoking despite evidence that it harms them, those around them, and their environment, all the while taking up chunks of the household income. The detriments brought about by smoking cannot be negated, in my opinion, by marginal benefits such as stress relief, and so a fully rational individual has no reason to smoke. An individual addicted to smoking thus cannot be considered rational because the addiction overrides rationality, and in that capacity the government has right to intervene. Some might argue that it is possible for an ...

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...rom cigarette taxes and will not have as large a budget to subsidise health care as before the bill. In this situation it is unethical to adopt utilitarianism, because those families who suffer may not be able to climb out of their economic situation.

Ultimately the government is not justified in raising cigarette taxes. Smoking does impair autonomy through addiction, but to raise taxes on cigarettes is to bring about a greater detriment to society by encouraging illegal and costly sourcing of cigarettes by poorer families, large-scale spending on supporting programs and repairing the already unstable economy. A government claiming paternalism would act in a more decidedly paternalistic fashion by looking at the ramifications of such a tax, and the government is not justified in hypocritically imposing a ‘paternalistic’ tax which is to the detriment of its people.