In a misguided attempt to save us from ourselves, Oregon legislators have become addicted to the so-called sin taxes they place on booze, drugs, and gambling. If we don’t break their addiction, it will expand into areas such as sugary soft drinks and fatty foods.

Now, a provocative new study challenges the whole concept of sin taxes, finding that they “not only do little to limit the use of ‘bad’ products, they do nothing to reduce societal costs.” Most remarkably, the study “demonstrates that those shockingly large estimates of the costs that the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, sugar, and fat supposedly impose on society have little basis in reality.”
Sin taxes also hit the poor harder than the rich. That’s because products like tobacco and state lotteries are disproportionately purchased by lower income people.

Sin taxes also give governments “a financial incentive to foster the very vices they profess to despise.” This may explain why, out of the more than one billion dollars Oregon has received to date from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and the tobacco companies, “not one penny has gone to tobacco prevention.” Prevention would cut into the state’s lucrative tobacco tax revenue, just as it would cut into state monopoly liquor revenue. The same goes for the state lottery that supposedly does good things at the expense of addicted gamblers.

It’s time that Oregon break its addiction to sin taxes.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

 

One Response to “The Wages of Sin Taxes”

  1. Darryl Jones July 8, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    THE ONLY THING that will stop a Bureaucrat’s or a Legislators DO GOODER (we are

    here to save you from yourselves lines of reasoning) IS A LOBOTOMY, AND EVEN

    THEN IT IS DOUBTFUL

Leave a Reply

 

Other Publications by Steve

Cascade Policy Institute Encourages a ‘No’ Vote on Measure 86

Steve Buckstein | September 18, 2014
The Board of Directors for the Cascade Policy Institute recently voted to oppose Measure 86, known as the Oregon Opportunity Initiative, on November’s ballot. Measure ...  read more

Don’t Pay Twice for Public Education

Steve Buckstein | August 27, 2014
Last week, the American College Testing organization (ACT) released the results of its national college admissions examination consisting of tests in English, Reading, Math, and ...  read more

Eight Out of Ten Oregonians Agree: Let employees choose whether or not to join a union or pay union dues

Steve Buckstein | August 11, 2014
Because of a deal struck by Governor John Kitzhaber, Oregonians won’t have the opportunity to end forced union dues in the public sector this year. However, a ...  read more

More On These Topics

School Choice Fosters Students’ “Profound Gratitude,” Author Says

Kathryn Hickok | September 17, 2014
Students everywhere are back in school, including grade school children from low-income families who are attending Oregon private schools thanks to the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland. ...  read more

The PUC Is Right: Some Conservation Projects No Longer Make Sense

John Charles | September 11, 2014
The Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO) is a nonprofit organization funded by taxes imposed on utility ratepayers. Most of the tax money is spent on ...  read more

The Votes Are In: Small Scholarships Have a Big Impact

Kathryn Hickok | September 3, 2014
The Children’s Scholarship Fund is a nationally recognized, privately funded scholarship program which has helped more than 139,000 low-income children attend tuition-based elementary schools nationwide ...  read more