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Poll: Thumbs down on the Sin Tax

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From “56% Oppose ‘Sin Taxes’ on Junk Food and Soft Drinks” on Rasmussen Reports:

Several cities and states, faced with big budget problems, are considering so-called “sin taxes” on things like junk food and soft drinks. But just 33% of Americans think these sin taxes are a good idea.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 56% oppose sin taxes on sodas and junk food. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided.

Many of the politicians who are pushing these taxes insist that they are intended to fight obesity, especially among children, and to address other public health issues. However, voters are highly skeptical of their motivation.

Only 17% believe the state and national politicians who favor sin taxes are more interested in public health than in finding another source of revenue for the government. Seventy-three percent (73%) say sin tax supporters are more interested in raising additional money for the government.

After all, 86% of adults say it is not the government’s responsibility to determine what people eat and drink. Five percent (5%) believe the government does have that responsibility.

Also see these Acton Institute resources:

“The Sin Tax Craze: Who’s Next?” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico

“Tax man aims to take a bigger bite out of junk food junkies” by Matt Cavedon

“Lifestyle Taxes — Political Camouflage for New Federal Sin Taxes” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico

“The Sin Tax: Economic and Moral Considerations” Occasional Paper by Rev. Robert A. Sirico

“The Economics of Sin Taxes” by James Sadowsky S.J. in Religion & Liberty.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • Ken Day

    I believe that Government does have a responsibility to determine what people eat and drink.

    So I am among those 5%. Now, I need to qualify this. In a democracy, we do have choice. But it is up to us to chose right. Sometimes we don’t want what is right. The Government is in effect, the people. As the people, we need to look after ourselves, and that includes pointing out to to others where thay are wrong, or hurting themselves. Also, we need to be prepared to be told where we are going wrong, or where we are hurting ourselves.

    Government does it’s best to stop drug selling and drug use. We have a limit on how much alcohol in the blood when driving. We point out to buyers the danger of smoking at the point of sale. We have contol on colours and fats, and preservatives in food. In essence, we are determining what people eat and drink.

    It’s the old argument – how much control should a democratic government have?

    I agree, some politicians would be more interested in the revenue, rather than the health benefit. Some would use the tax, with a hidden aganda. But how do you know? Politicians should have an examination of conscience, and if their motive is sinister, they should repent and confess. How many would do this?

    Jesus reminds us that their are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Matthew 7:15.

    The Catholic Catechism says ” The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess; the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco and medicine. ” #2290 Respect For Health.

    This is a good article John. I value your judgement. What are your thoughts on this John? You did not say.

    These issues are of course mentioned in the articles you have the links to. They are good reading too.

    God bless.

  • almond603

    I agree with you Ken. I read an article recently (I can’t remember where) comparing this “sin tax” to the big tobacco battles of the late 20th century. interesting take.

    as for hidden agendas behind the passage of this legislation, perhaps I’m misrepresenting Jay Richard’s point in his new book (I’m sorry if I am) but he basically makes the point (in discussing fair trade and social responsibility projects like that) that the motives behind an initiative don’t matter as much as the effects of the initiative. if politicians motives are not 100% on board for public health reasons, that shouldn’t really matter as long as the outcome positively affects public health.

  • There’s a good article on a piece of the subject at

    The author is Dwight Lee from SMU’s Cox Business School. After a brief summary of what it used to be like when we lived on farms and were responsible for hunting, gathering, growing and harvesting, then cooking our own food — that old invisible hand made life easier.

    With the bonus of free time some might find more productive things to do but alas, others order two Big MACs instead of one and because all they have to do while waiting for their food is listen to CDs or blab on the cell phone, they consume twice the nutrition they need and get FAT. And because it’s easy, they allow themselves to be called victims. As Mr. Lee puts it:

    “The success of market incentives and freedom in effectively eliminating the threat of starvation has, in the minds of the public, been converted into a failure that is being used to justify further undermining the power of markets and freedom to continue replacing the problems of poverty with the problems of prosperity.”

    The article goes way beyond food and is worthwhile.

  • Ken Day

    Almond, that’s a good point. Yes, the effectiveness of a initiative or programme, can still be worthwhile and achieve it’s purpose, even if there were some hidden agendas behind it. It’s a bit like our speed cameras, some complain that it’s done to get revenue. This may be the case too, but at the same time it saves lives.

    Thanks Ken L for the link.


  • Kell Brigan

    One of the major problems with “Sin” taxes is they’re targeted at behavior (i.e. eating “junk” food) that is not directly correlated to the desire outcome (i.e. ridding the world of fat people). Fat people eat exactly the same amounts and types of food as thinner people, and no one, anywhere, ever, has proven that permanent weight “loss” is possible for more than half a percent of the population. The exact same percentage of people are fat now as in any time throughout history (notice is the shock & awe “statistics” how the talk shifts between hard numbers and percentages, and misrepresents a null change in percentage as an “increase,” even though the entire population has increased), and fatness follows the same inheritence patterns as height and similar characteristics. So-called “overweight” people have better health than the “normals”, and the “obese” have health most similar to the “normals.” And, the thinnest people are the sickest, but no one’s screaming about a “thinness” epidemic (even though their percentages have changed to the same degree as fatness percentages, i.e. not much.) “Sin” taxes won’t make anyone thinner, and only a tiny number of people healthier. If the folks in charge of the Obestiy Progrom want to get rid of fat people, they’ll have to start building gas chambers. (Maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas.)

  • almond603

    kell, can you provide where you getting this data? I’m not saying your wrong, but you are the first person I’ve heard these statements from, so I’m a bit skeptical but want to give you the benefit.