Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I don’t see why cigarettes cannot be taxed up to ¥1,000 per pack, or more. The extra revenue that would generate can be funneled towards health care, and then health insurance fees for people like me who do not smoke can be reduced. Will tobacconists and smokers complain that they are being unfairly mistreated? Tobacco is a dangerous drug - one that just happens to be legal
- so I wonder to what extent true and proper fairness dictates we need to listen to them. Fairness plays more than one way at once.
Similarly, there can be an across-the-board hike in all alcohol prices for the same reason. (I don’t drink, either.) And, because married people statistically live longer and healthier than singles, we might increase income tax for singles, or certain categories of singles. This even might contribute to birth rate increase and population rejuvenation.
Published on Thursday, October 14, 2010 as “Let the tobacco tax drift higher.”
I briefly saw a story in The Daily Yomiuri newspaper that quoted a Japanese tobacconist lamenting the recent tobacco tax increase and complaining that people in his business were being treated like they were selling poison. I thought to myself “That’s exactly what you are selling!” However, I did not think at that time to write a letter about it, and I did not keep the paper. I threw it away at the end of the day. Later I thought about it some more and thought that the complaint “They’re treating us like we’re selling poison” made a wonderful opening for a letter. By then it was too late, of course, so I resorted to the Internet to try to find the story. I couldn’t find it. So I checked The Japan Times online edition. I still couldn’t find it. Then I checked several days in a row. I failed. Finally I decided to just go ahead with the letter I eventually wrote, and that looks like it was printed without changes.
Of course, in a socialized health insurance system like what we have in Japan we cannot do this. Or, we cannot easily do it, charging different people differently, because the nature f socialized health insurance is shared risk. Everyone subsidizes everyone else. Mostly people do not realize it. So you cannot say that you want to pay less than the other guy because the other guy engages in unhealthy behaviors, like smoking and drinking, which you do not. No matter how healthy people are - the ones who boast “I’ve never been sick a day in my life!” come to mind - it is a certainty that everyonewill get sick (and die) and be in need of the (expensive) health care system at some point.
The “Views from the Street” column (Japan Times, Tuesday, July 3, 2012) interviewed six people on the streets of Fujisawa, three foreigners, three Japanese, all of whom endorsed the idea of raising tobacco taxes.