Health

Smoking Is The Tax-Paid Gift That Keeps On Giving

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor

Federal agencies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year encouraging Americans to quit smoking, but that didn’t stop the government from giving it right back to the tobacco industry this year.

The Department of Agriculture supported the tobacco industry with $119 million worth of tax-funded subsidies in 2015, according to Wastebook: The Farce Awakens – a new report by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona that was made public Tuesday.

More than one-third of the Agriculture Department’s support to the tobacco industry – or $45 million – was awarded for crop insurance, and more than half – or $69 million – was awarded for direct income support payments. Another $5 million was spent on smaller programs.

Flake’s new report – a continuation of former Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s own Wastebook – describes 100 examples of misused tax dollars.

The Obama “administration took the unusual step of exempting these tobacco payments for the mandatory across-the-board” sequestration cuts requiring “deeper cuts to other federal programs and missions, like national defense and disease prevention,” Wastebook said.

The Agriculture Department doled out those funds, even though “smoking cigarettes causes one in five deaths in the United States, making smoking the nation’s leading preventable cause of death” the report said. “More than 480,000 deaths every year are attributed to smoking more than the total number of fatalities caused by motor vehicles and firearm injuries, drugs and alcohol use and HIV/AIDS combined.”

Meanwhile, the government also spent hundreds of millions to prevent smoking, and “billions to treat smoking-related health problems,” the report said.

Treating health problems caused by smoking annually costs the federal government more than $90 billion, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration spent a total of $460 million each on anti-smoking ads since 2012, according to the report.

In other words, the federal government is using tax dollars to support and collapse the smoking industry.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.