Tuesday, May 19, 2009

San Francisco To Tax Smokers For Littering

Targeting the bad habit to tax is a favorite game of politicians. According to New York Times article, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newson wants to impose a fee on cigarette butt which often end up on the city's streets, sidewalks and gutters.

"The proposal, to be introduced next month to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, would add 33 cents to the cost of a pack of cigarettes, to offset the estimated $10.7 million the city spends annually removing discarded butts from gutters, drainpipes and sidewalks.

"Mr. Newsom said cigarette butts became a target after San Francisco’s annual “litter audit” found that cigarette detritus made up a quarter of all the trash in the city’s public spaces. With the city spending some $44 million a year on litter cleanup — and facing a $500 million deficit for the coming fiscal year — a fee was born." [San Francisco has $6.6 billion annual budget.]

There's some strange logic here. So a quarter of all the trash in the city's public spaces were cigarette butts. It costs $44 million a year to clean ALL litter. So let's charge quarter of $44 million on packs of cigarettes.

As if the street sweepers separate out litter and leave cigarette butts to a dedicated cigarette butts cleaners. Money is fungible, but so is litter. What about the remaining three-quarters of litter? Are they going to levy extra tax on candy bars, bottled water, soda cans?

"The added cost, Mr. Newsom hopes, will also dampen smokers’ urge to light up."

The true reason for the tax is to punish people who smoke financially so they quit. It will be for their own good, to be free of addiction.

And that, seems to be how things are going: to punish your "bad habit" by taxing. Across the country, there are already numerous proposals for new taxes for money-starved local governments: sodas high in fructose, potato chips and other junk foods, video game download, etc. But who decides what's "bad" for you? Politicians? Special interest groups, as long as their "interest" is good for you?

I have a feeling that smokers in San Francisco will make sure they throw the cigarette butts on to the city's streets and gutters, because they will be paying for the cleaning cost anyway.


Anonymous said...

Since the majority of smokers in San Francisco are Chinese, and of those, the greater number are males, then slapping a nice fine on them would work better. The Chinese respond very well to punishment: they avoid the behavior that brings on financial pain. Spitting could also be heavily fined. Cops could spring on them out of nowhere, from their bicycles. If Chinese males had to look around surreptiously every time they wished to throw a cigarette butt or spit, then they'd think twice. They're no dummies!!!

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