Chewing gum tax - both a good and bad idea

The idea of imposing a tax upon chewing gum has its merits - there is a cost associated with it after all:

A chewing gum tax should be introduced to help pay to clean up British streets, the Local Government Association has said. 

A cross party motion has been tabled in Parliament along with a petition asking Government to crack down on the "nuisance and unsightly blight imposed throughout the UK by the careless disposal of chewing gum".

Local councils currently spend £60 million a year scraping an estimated two million pieces of gum, dropped daily, from pavements.

The campaign is being backed by the LGA and campaigners Clean Up Britain, which has also called for the chewing gum industry to belegally forced to contribute towards paying for the problem.Chewing gum is the second most commonly dropped litter after cigarette butts.

The petition says: "The Government must hold billionaire gum producers accountable for the huge costs their product inflicts. Currently they pay nothing towards these costs.

Standard theory says it's just fine to impose a Pigou Tax where there are third party costs.

However, there are a number of things wrong with the idea too. Firstly, such taxes should not be hypothecated - the revenue doesn't go to trying to clean up the mess. Rather, we're trying to alter market prices so that those imposing the costs have them included in the decisions to act or not. 

That leading to the second problem - it's not the manufacturers either imposing these costs nor is it them we'd like to carry them. The costs are imposed by those who spit the stuff out onto pavements. Those are therefore the people we'd like to be paying the costs.

That is, a proper examination shows that we'd like to have a "spitting chewing gum onto the pavement" tax rather than one supposedly upon manufacturers. As it happens, we do already have taxes and fines for littering. We thus just need to enforce current law, not have a new charge.

The idea is thus just fine in that third party cost impositions should be carried by those who impose them. But we do have to correctly identify the actors and then direct our impositions at them. It's people spitting the gum imposing the costs - fine them.