Taxing your health

I really abhor laws put in place to protect you from yourself. Despite being a paying patron of the performing arts, I was ardently against the Cleveland initiative to place an extra tax on cigarettes to give the money to performing arts, but I couldn’t vote on it since I don’t live in Cuyahoga County. Some of my friends were against this tax because they thought the tax money should go to a fund that helps people who are dying of cancer or other smoking-related diseases. I agree with them there. We should not reap the benefits of people smoking to fund an unrelated group in need of funding. But I also don’t think we should tax people on their personal choices. It not only sets a dangerous precedent, but it’s not our business to legislate how people should spend their money or penalize them for spending money on something the general public deems a “dangerous activity.”

I’m not for smoking. Don’t get me wrong. I am a recovering smoker, so I do have a certain empathy towards that part of the population. However, though I voted against it, I actually am enjoying the law against cigarette smoking in restaurants and bars now, which I never thought I would. It turns out that it’s easier for me–as a recovering smoker–to avoid the craving for cigarettes when I’m not sitting there amidst a bunch of cigarette smokers. And I’m sure all the non-smokers out there are happy because they no longer leave places smelling like an ash tray.

That said, however, I never did and never will agree on adding an additional tax to cigarettes for use to fund other programs. The dangerous precedent we set here by adding such tax is the freedom to open the flood gates of ridiculousness for other special interest groups to jump on the band wagon of adding “sin taxes” to anything and everything that they deem is in your best interest. I’m not usually one to believe in “cascading events”–one event will begin the unraveling of the entire woven blanket of civilization as we know it. However, when it comes to people getting a definite supply of money from something, I do think events can cascade out of control.

Case in point is the news blurb I heard this morning about adding a tax to pop (soda to those not in the Midwest). A little vein started to pound on my head when I heard this discussion come up this morning and it did not help the migraine I’d woken up with. The thought process behind this brilliant idea is that pop/soda is bad for you. Which, okay, we know sugar pop/soda is not the best thing you can drink. BUT. It’s YOUR decision to drink it. Why should you be penalized for your personal choice to drink something or your lack of will power to keep yourself from drinking it constantly? Who’s wise matronly decision is it penalize you for your choices?

I want to know who these people are who think they are the Mothers of America, dictating what they think is right for everyone. These people–whoever they are–are going to tell us what is good for us to eat and if we decide that we are going to go against that predetermined little nutritional chart, they are going to charge us more money to purchase something we enjoy. What happens next, then? Hmmm? Taxing me for eating meat? For buying coffee? For chocolate? Let’s get real here!

“They” want to take the money generated from the pop tax to fund public awareness programs about health. We don’t need public awareness campaigns about health. I know the secret to good health: GET OFF YOUR BUTTS AND DO SOME EXERCISE. You are not going to be in good health by starving yourself and then continuing an inactive lifestyle. I am not convinced that any study we’ve done proves much of anything as far as food is concerned. One week, I’m told coffee may cause cancer; the next week I’m told coffee is actually good for you. I’m sorry, but I think there are a variety of variables that contribute to your overall health–genetics, exercise level, environment–and not one single thing is going to cause your demise. Sometimes, you’re just damned unlucky and no matter what you did right, you’re still going to end up with some massive health issue. Why spend all this time obsessing about it?

I just don’t think it’s right or constitutional to start adding extra taxes on things because someone somewhere has deemed that a particular product is unsafe for you. It rubs me the wrong way to have some Over-Mother out there slapping my wrist for the personal choices I make. We don’t need more laws to protect us from ourselves. We have to take a bit of personal responsibility for our lives and the choices we make, not blame the problem on the people who make Coke or Marlboros. The government should not be in the business of legislating personal choice or morality.

And I won’t stop drinking my pop. Though, I admit, I switched long ago to diet pop. And you can tell me all you want that it’s still bad for my health but I’m not going to stop drinking it. It’s my choice. If you want to argue with me that I’m an unhealthy person, then I challenge you to ride up Everett Road with me sometime. We’ll see who’s unhealthy.

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