August 28, 2009

Taxing Sin, A Look Into Excise Taxes


Mercatus scholars host a series of interviews with with policy scholars, elected officials and other practitioners about state and local legislative and regulatory reforms.

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With state revenues dwindling many states turned to excise taxes to decrease budget gaps. Close to a dozen states increased their cigarette taxes. According to, “New York, New Jersey and North Carolina raised both tobacco and alcohol taxes. Kentucky and Massachusetts ended the sales tax exemption of alcoholic beverages, while Colorado ended its sales tax break on cigarettes.” Often sin taxes on certain sugary products are used to help fight obesity as well.

Joining us this week to talk about Excise Taxes is Dr. Richard Williams. Dr. Williams is the managing director of the Regulatory Studies Program and the Government Accountability Project. Prior to joining the Mercatus Center, he served as the director for social sciences at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the Food and Drug Administration for 27 years. He also served as an advisor to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis and taught economics at Washington and Lee University.