On Ed Miliband's new tax on tobacco profits


Ed Miliband has decided that there should be higher taxes on the profits of cigarette companies. The argument being that smoking costs the NHS money and that thus some cash should come from the one activity to cover the other. However, that activity of smoking already more than covers the public costs associated with it. As is helpfully pointed out here:

Estimates for the amount spent on tobacco in the UK in 2011 range from £15.3bn to £18.3bn. The cost of smoking to the NHS is put at between £2.7bn and £5.2bn.

The Treasury earned £9.5bn in revenue from tobacco duties in the financial year 2011-12.

When even The Guardian is pointing out the mathematical difficulties with a Labour Party leader's promises then it would be fair to say that it's not really going to fly, wouldn't it?

And that is rather the point about smoking. The activity is already sufficiently taxed that it pays for all of the public costs associated with it and more (and that's to ignore the fact that shorter lifespans as a result save the NHS money). There are substantial private costs of course: but public taxation isn't the correct way to deal with such private costs either.