Acton Institute Powerblog

California: Up in Smoke

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Rev. Robert Sirico comments on California’s Proposition 86, a measure which would nearly triple state tobacco taxes to fund health care initiatives. “It is true, of course, that governments always act on moral premises of some sort,” he writes. “Punishing crimes against person and property are acts of moral sanction. But on the taxation of cigarettes, we have seen that numerous faith leaders and religious groups are more than willing to cede their responsibility for moral leadership to the government.”

Read the full commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • David Romero

    Why should the saintly draw the line on cigarettes; what about tax increases on cigars, chewing tobacco and pipe tobacco, or are the latter construed as somehow less "sinful"? As a matter of fact, just who decided smoking or chewing tobacco is sinful, in the first place? Ah, there’s the rub. It’s all a cash nexus. Convince the voters that smokers are a pariah and deserve to be punished vis-a-vis taxes for the benefit of others– notwithstanding the World Health Organization’s report stating that second-hand smoking is not– repeat, not– harmful to others. My message to the legions of saintly guardians: If you don’t want to light up, then lighten up.

  • A.B. Dada

    Wallis is probably not a Christian, so I’m not sure why so many people label him as such.

    From what I’ve found in the Bible, Jesus was pretty specific here:

    "You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye."

    Matthew 7:5

    Creating a sin tax is the equivalent of judging others. The sign of a Christian is one who bears good fruit, and judging others is definitely not bearing good fruit.

  • Joseph Scian

    I agree with all the points made be Father Sirico, and I’d add another that should resonate with the Wallis types [lefty-liberals (redundant?)]. This tax, and most of the "sin" taxes are terribly regressive. Who smokes now-a-days anyway? Disproportionately we’re talking about the lower socio-economic classes.

  • smokedoctor

    Tobacco increases costs for us all,, and is linked to moral evils

    80%% higher rate of abortion,

    90%% re alcoholism,

    90%% re crime,

    People such as Fr. Sirico do not acknowedge such facts; they insist on their theories, and don’t want to be confused by facts to the contrary. such "clergymen" pretend to oppose evils such as abortion, alcoholism and crime, but object to prevention measures — thus showing their real beliefs. "Righ to life" tyopes are particularly obsessed with supporting tobacco and opposing anything that might reduce tobacco use,
    Such allegedly "pro-life" types are in fact pro-death, including tobacco-caused abortions which they conveniently rename as "miscarriages."

    Clergymen of the past had higher moral views on the tobacco subject,

  • David Pendleton

    Let’s admit it: sin taxes are, well, taxes. Their purpose is to raise revenue. If the government wants to prohibit and end an activity, they pass laws making such an activity a crime of some sort. On the other hand, conduct sometimes lends itself to higher taxes than would be normally political sustainable. Politicians find convenient the fact that smoking is unhealthful. That fact allows them to utilize the practice as a means for raising revenue. It also allows them to appear to support a noble goal — clean air, public health, etc. I’m describing here, not prescribing. This is the way it is, and Fr. Sirico’s commentary is right on point. In Hawaii, we banned smoking in enclosed public spaces and in government buildings. This may not have raised any revenue, but it did honestly achieve the goal of a smoke free environment for those of us who value clean air. It also allows those who wish to subject their lungs to carcinogens to their heart’s content so long as they are outside.