In the third paragraph of the article “Weight watchers”, the author highlights the ineffectiveness of imposing high taxes on cigarettes to discourage consumption. The author indicates that the response by smokers to hiked cigarette prices mainly depends on their purpose for smoking. The view of the detrimental effects of high prices on a smoker’s financial status has minimal effects on the spending on cigarettes.
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The paragraph highlights the fact that the majority of people do not smoke for pleasure but due to the utility that they derive from smoking. A key theme in the paragraph is the smoking tendency among young people, which has remained unchanged because of the popularity of smoking as a weight control measure despite the high prices of cigarettes. The author has used an analytical approach in arguing on the ineffectiveness of taxes in reducing smoking by using supportive data from studies by researchers from renowned institutions.
The author mainly focuses on highlighting the failure of taxation in curbing smoking to condition the audience to accept an alternative approach, which focuses on influencing the psychological inclination to smoke as a method of weight control. The effectiveness of policies such as taxation in curbing smoking is subject to the influence of the policies on the marginal utility and inelastic demand for cigarettes. The tendency to purchase extra units of a product depends on the level of satisfaction that the consumer enjoys by consuming an extra unit of the product. The claim that 46 per cent of teenage girls and 30 per cent of teenage boys smoke in order to lose weight highlights a considerably high marginal utility for cigarettes.
The sensitivity of young people to matters regarding their body weight influences the attempts to embrace activities or measures that can maintain an appealing body size. Losing weight among young people is of high preference than foregoing the expenditure on cigarettes for other wants. High cigarette prices are unlikely to alter smokers’ tendencies considering that smoking offers an easier way of losing weight compared to traditional methods such as dietary practices and exercising. The article does not discuss the cause of the gender disparity in smoking habits related to weight loss. Women, especially teenage girls, are highly sensitive to their appearance and are more likely to adopt extreme measures to maintain an appealing look compared to men.
The author has omitted evidence on the role of nicotine addiction in influencing the inelasticity of the demand for cigarettes. The use of smoking as a measure to control weight and appetite among teenagers and young adults means that prices are unlikely to influence smokers’ habits with the lack of an equally effective replacement. Medical evidence shows that nicotine influences the metabolic rate, calorie intake and the endocannabinoid system, which stimulates the brain reward responses in smokers.
The analysis of smoking in the context of the consumer demand theory highlights aspects of the behaviour and satisfaction of people who smoke to lose weight. The perspective that rational consumers purchase different products to maximize utility conflicts with the observation that people who smoke fail to respond to the increase in cigarette prices by adjusting their smoking tendencies appropriately (Landsburg 102). The purpose of taxation on cigarettes is to influence smokers to divert some of the money they spend on cigarettes to the purchase of other products, which would maximize the total utility on an amount of money (Hall and Lieberman 154).
Economists would expect that the increase in the cost of cigarettes with a total utility of 90 would cause smokers to limit the expenditure on cigarettes and extend their buying to include a packet of milk with a utility of 60 to increase the total utility to 140. Theoretically, the rationale of a total utility of 120 at the price of purchasing cigarettes with a total utility of 90 should influence the buying decision of a consumer and reduce the consumption of cigarettes.
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The aspect of addiction among smokers violates the law of diminishing marginal utility because smokers derive additional satisfaction with the consumption of extra cigarettes. The direct relationship between the intake of nicotine, reduced metabolism and calorie intake extends the threshold beyond which smokers begin to derive minimal pleasure from smoking.
The lack of alternatives to the rewards of smoking as a method of controlling weight has created an inelastic demand for the product, which is unlikely to change with the decision to impose high taxes. Cigarettes have become an essential good for smokers, and addressing the problem requires the promotion of awareness and education on the health effects of smoking.
Although smoking cessation leads to a significant gain in body weight and increases the risks of obesity among addicts, the long-term effects of smoking outweigh the benefits of losing weight through smoking. The idea of losing weight is a psychological concept that needs intervention measures, which will change the negative effects of social comparison and peer pressure. Addressing nicotine addiction and the perception of beauty will reverse the inelastic demand for cigarettes.
Hall, Robert, and Marc Lieberman. Microeconomics: principles & applications, Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
Landsburg, Steven. Price theory and applications, Cincinnati, Ohio: South-Western Pub., 2002. Print.