Because I like arguing, I suggested the following: rather than raise money to pay for healthcare through a cigarette "sin tax", the government instead should subsidize cigarettes and save money by having people die younger. After a moment when I let people pick up their jaws, I explained: if you have to cover someone for 60 years until they quickly die of cancer its probably cheaper in the long run than covering someone who dies at 93 on 15 medications with multiple conditions.
Pascal Gobry does it better:
The justification for taxes on cigarettes is that smokers cost more to the public purse, right? Not because they smell bad, right? They cost more because they get cancer, right?
What if it was the other way around? What if smokers saved the government money? Because we do. We get cancer earlier. We die younger. We cost less in pensions and we even cost less in healthcare. What is so cripplingly damaging to the healthcare system is end of life care for the elderly, right? Postponing the inevitable by a couple months, right? End of life care is much cheaper for a 60 year old with untreatable cancer, whom you just put on a morphine drip, than it is for an 85 year old with about eleven different conditions.
The point Pascal and I are getting at is that it is very easy to tax the minority. Why is marijuana still illegal? Because it's easy to legislate things away from people who don't have the clout to protect themselves or their personal liberties.Now, one might argue that marijuana turns people into sterile, mindless, apathetic sloths, and that arguer might be right. But I can change that sentence and instead of making a thing illegal, we tax it:
Now, one might argue that cigarettes turn people into cancerous, high-blood pressure suffering, emphysemic, nicotine addicts...
The bottom line is this: our country happily legislates on morality, and when I say morality I do not in the slightest speak of natural law. I speak of the vogue morals of an ever-changing society, one that hasn't the slightest inclination why some rules are rules.