If you don’t know who Bill DeBlasio is, he is currently the mayor for New York City, New York. There has been recent speculation about him continuing the high tax enforced on cigarettes and tobacco products that was initiated by his predecessor former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Former mayor Bloomberg is the architect of using exorbitant taxing on commonly consumed items that been deemed unhealthy and a public health concern. This type of taxing has been given the name “sin taxing.” In addition to smoking and tobacco products, soft drinks and trans fats have had either had higher taxes or bans levied on them. Although there have been many critics, the merits of the ideology of this kind of legislation is justified in the fact it was devised to improve overall public health. In fact during, his tenure city wide smoking rates were reported to be cut by around a third1. There is nobody that can dispute that less cigarette smoking can only be a benefit to one’s health. We all know that because of the health ramifications associated to smoking. If you don’t here are a just a few facts from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) to elucidate my point:
Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths per year. That is around 20% of deaths per year.2
Smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer in men and women. More women die from lung cancer than breast cancer each year. 2
Cigarette smoking increases risk for death for all causes for men and women.2
Knowing those facts it’s easy to understand the origin of the sin tax for cigarettes. I don’t dispute that. But, here is my question:
If there is a sin tax for consuming cigarettes and tobacco products based on public health, then should mayor DeBlasio not a sin tax for the consumption of processed meat and other meat and animal products based on public health?
In case you were not aware the World Health Organization published a report about the most prevalent risk factors to be avoided to help prevent cancer. Processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch ham etc) are just as carcinogenic as asbestos, arsenic, alcohol and of course cigarettes. Processed meat and animal products have been associated with colorectal cancer, pancreatic and prostate cancer. In fact, 50g of processed meat per day is enough to increase the risk for colorectal cancer by 18%3 . 50 grams is about the weight of 1 link small link.3
In my opinion, that is a tough question to answer because at first glance the hard numbers don’t support an argument to have such a tax simply because much more people die due to cancer annually from smoking worldwide (1 million) than eating processed and red meat (84,000)2. However, to complicate the relevance of those numbers some of the most populated countries in the world like, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia eat very little meat period4. Also, China’s citizens on average eat half as much meat as americans do4 . So who’s to say if the entire world did eat as much meat as we do here in the states that the world would have similar cancer rates as the US does. Now that is truly is food for thought.