Smoking is unhealthy and costs Mississippi money and by raising taxes on cigarettes the state generates revenue and decreases smoking activity. Only one in four Mississippians smoke, mostly lower income, so health advocates found a cigarette tax increase an easy target.

Congress passed a 156 percent increase in federal excise taxes on cigarettes, raising the tax from 39 cents per pack to $1.01 per pack. The Mississippi legislature passed a 277 percent cigarette tax increase, raising the per pack state tax from 18 cents per pack to 68 cents per pack.

The alliance between health hall monitors who think they know best how other adults should live their lives, and a government which thinks it knows best how to spend its citizens' money, turns it attention to new targets. You might have supported increased cigarette taxes, but they might be coming for your pleasures next.

The Marin Institute - a California based "alcohol industry watchdog" - last week released an online tool to help state legislators calculate revenue generated by raising taxes on beer, wine, and liquor.

That's right, Bud, this tax is for you.

Marin developed this tool for "states looking for new revenue sources while holding Big Alcohol accountable for the enormous harm its products cause. Many states have not raised alcohol taxes or fees in decades." The same tune second verse continues, "higher alcohol taxes lead to reductions in the frequency of drinking and heavy drinking among youth, lower traffic fatalities, and reduced incidences of alcohol-related crime." Sound familiar?

Perhaps your vice is neither nicotine or alcohol. But, do you enjoy sugar? We must stand against the evils of Big Sweet. I'm not kidding. There are proposals to institute a federal soft-drink tax, and groups studying sugar-linked obesity hoping to use tax policy as a healthcare solution.

A recent post from the Wall Street Journal Health Blog noted, "With rates of obesity alarmingly high -- a new study Monday showed that almost 20% of U.S. children are obese -- government officials are considering different public-health efforts to help people curb the weight problem....A tax on sodas of a penny an ounce could lead to a drastic reduction in consumption of such sugary drinks, says a piece in today's New England Journal of Medicine. One study cited in the article found that a 10% increase in price leads to a 7.8% decrease in the amount people drink." The post continued that earmarking the revenue for "nutrition and obesity prevention" makes it a "grand slam" for health advocates as well.

The Illinois legislature recently passed a measure taxing alcohol, soft drinks, and even candy. Taxing our money is easier than taking candy from a baby. After sweets may come fat, and your hamburger or potato chips could see a tax hike.

Exorbitant taxes diminish the freedom of choice and opportunity taxpayers enjoy. Consumers make purchases based on several calculations which may include the social responsibility of a company, but almost always includes price. If all things are equal, consumers choose the cheaper item. Taxation affects those choices sometimes driving consumers to purchase one product over another, sometimes pushing consumers out of the market entirely. Taxation is control. Taxation on products based on ideological values is social control with the government dictating through the marketplace how it citizens should act.

Taxes diminish expendable income and shrinks the ability of individuals to make their money work for their own values and priorities. The "Puritan work ethic" that made America prosperous encourages individuals to work hard so they can take care of themselves, and the less fortunate. That ethic allows people to support their Church and charities, as well as enjoy the fruits of their labor through buying items, or supporting artists and musicians, or building bigger homes, or whatever they choose. They may choose to support a Christian ministry or a Muslim relief group; a modern sculptor or an Americana songwriter.

Taxation changes that. The government taxes our income and then it chooses how to help our neighbors by funding welfare programs or social value groups. The government taxes our income and then it chooses which artists to give grants to and which artistic endeavors to support.

In the process, taxes grow government. Government doesn't shrink and doesn't retreat. A large government bureaucracy is inefficient to serve the needs of its citizens. The more taxes increase, the larger the government, the less efficient, and so the more it needs to feed its bloated size. Thus, for example, when faced with diminished revenue from the sales tax on new cars, the government raised taxes on cigarettes. It did not decrease taxes and when new cars sales increase, the cigarette tax will not decrease.

Government has a role and taxes are necessary. But when the Tea Party movement says "we're taxed enough already" I say, "I'll drink to that."

Brian Perry, a former congressional aide, is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at