Taxation and regulation of smoking, drinking and gambling in the European Union
Smoking is the single largest cause of avoidable death in the European Union accounting for over half a million deaths each year. One in ten of all 11-year olds have been drunk twice or more times, possibly causing lasting physical and mental harm. Electronic gaming machines are the crack cocaine of gambling. Consumer sovereignty, on the other hand, indicates that people should be allowed to smoke as long as they do not harm others. There is sound medical evidence, furthermore, that a drink each day keeps the doctor away, while recreational gambling can be an enjoyable form of entertainment for many people. These and other salient facts about the harmful and positive effects of smoking, drinking and gambling provide the background for a dispassionate economic analysis of the taxation and regulation of these activities. The main message the studies convey is that it would be unrealistic to rely solely on duty levels and differentiation to curb abusive use. Duty levels do have a clear impact in restraining consumption by children and young adults - an important priority for policy. But complementary policies - including direct regulation and provision of information - also have a meaningful role to play in each of the markets for tobacco, alcohol and gambling.
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