How the Latest Successful Stop-Smoking Campaign Can Be Applied to Other Bad Habits

Every time I go out to buy anything from shoe polish to hair spray to a new Harley-Davidson jacket, I get taxed.  Every time this happens, I ask, “Hey, what’s the story here?”  When I earn it, the federal government taxes it, the state government taxes it, and then when that’s all done, and I’m down to what I can actually spend, they tax me on everything I use my “already taxed” income for. Does that seem right, fair or fun to anyone?  I think not.

That was until last week.  The per-pack federal tax increase on cigarettes from 39 cents to $1.01 has made for a smokin’ “stop smoking hot line” and treatment center boom!  The Denver-based National Jewish Health line received triple the usual number of calls last Monday for six states in which it operates:  Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, and Ohio. 

Quit smoking phone lines around the country are feeling the surge, and Michigan’s quit line itself had to quit because it ran out of money in mid-March after logging more than 65,000 callers in 5 days!  Besides counseling and tips, Michigan’s hot line offered free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges.

Arkansas had to quit general advertising for its quit line to keep up with the surge.

Not all “quitters” will be successful.  It’s a tough physiological and psychological addiction to break.  One source guesses that about 1 million adults will quit as a result of the tax increase. 

So, after hearing about this, I got to thinking…if money outweighs morality in issues of behavior, the government is onto something.  Instead of super-taxing yachts and Harry Winston-level jewelry, why not tax divorces, so that people will make more of an effort to make their vows mean something more than their egos or impulses? Why not tax people who use day care, nannies and/or baby-sitters, so their children will come to know them better and be more loved, nurtured, and end up feeling safe and confident about love and family?  Why not tax women who abort instead of finding a wonderful family to give life and love to their unwanted children?  Why not tax men who walk away after knocking up some woman they have no intention of adoring, protecting or providing for by marriage?

I could go on, but you get my meaning.  On my radio program, I try to reach and influence people with a bit of good sense, rational thought, and (when necessary) appropriate guilt.  I give them direction, motivation, support, and a good motherly nag.

Callers don’t pay for their time on the phone.  Sometimes, I joke with them that if they don’t start doing the right thing, I am going to reverse the charges – and impose a kind of “talk show tax.”  That’s starting to sound more and more like a good idea.  If people are willing to get rid of a nasty, dangerous, addictive habit like smoking because of money, maybe costing them money would prod even more people into “doing the right thing.”