Many countries require cigarette smokers to pay particularly high taxes on their purchases of cigarettes; similar taxes are being considered for unhealthy foods. The policy of imposing high taxes on cigarettes and other unhealthy products has a number of social benefits.
First of all, the taxes discourage people from indulging in unhealthy behaviors. Raising taxes on cigarettes, for instance, leads people to buy fewer of them. Smoking has declined as taxes on tobacco have risen, showing that these taxes do work to make society healthier. It can be expected that imposing similar taxes on unhealthy food and beverages would help reduce obesity rates.
Second, taxes of this kind are financially fair. When people get sick as a result of their smoking or eating unhealthy foods, they create medical costs. It is unfair that everyone in the society, including nonsmokers and people who follow a healthy diet, should contribute equally to covering these costs. Taxing people who engage in unhealthy behaviors creates extra income that can be used to cover the medical costs. In this way, some of the financial burden is shifted from all of society to just those who choose to participate in the unhealthy activities.
Finally, the high rate of taxation on cigarettes significantly increases revenue for the government. In addition to using this tax revenue on medical assistance, governments often use the revenue for other projects that benefit public welfare, such as building stadiums or creating public parks. Even basic government-supported services like public education benefit from these taxes. Thus, the taxes on cigarettes, and the proposed taxes on unhealthy foods, benefit everyone.
In the reading passage, the author lists three reasons to prove there are many social benefits of imposing high taxes upon cigarettes as well as other unhealthy products. However, the professor in the listening contends that each of the arguments about the benefits of the cigarette and other such taxes can be challenged. Firstly, the reading passage claims that high taxes could prevent people from unhealthy behaviors, but the professor argues that these taxes don't necessarily lead to healthy behaviors. For instance, heavy taxes can lead some smokers to buy cheaper and lower quality cigarettes. Such cigarettes typically contain even more harmful substances than better quality cigarettes, and present even greater health risks. Similarly, imagine how some consumers might react to same taxes on unhealthy foods. They might continue buying the unhealthy foods they prefer even if it's more expensive, and as a result, have less money left to spend on healthy foods. That certainly wouldn't benefit their health. Secondly, in the reading passage, it is said that this kind of taxes are financially fair. On the contrary, the professor hold the opinion that there are different ways of thinking about fairness. It might seem fair for people indulging in unhealthy behaviors to pay for the consequences of those behaviors through high taxes, but some people would argue that these taxes are unfair, because they don't take into account people's incomes. If a higher earning person and a lower earning person are addicted to cigarettes, and each smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, paying the tax would be a greater expense for the lower earner relative to his or her income. The same argument applies to the food taxes, so many people believe these taxes are not fair, because they create a much greater burden for those with lower incomes than for those with higher incomes. Finally, according to the reading passage, such kind of high taxation could increase revenue for the government, while the professor maintains that the fact governments can use these tax revenues for various projects has a downside. This income represents millions and millions of dollars, and governments become dependent on it and don't want to lose it. In consequence, the governments might not be forceful enough pursuing policies and implementing laws that might eliminate unhealthy habits all together. For example, they are likely to adopt radical measures such as not allowing smoking in outdoor public areas such as parks, or even banning smoking in all outdoor areas public or private, because they don't want to lose this income.