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|An aspect of fiscal policy|
A sin tax is an excise tax specifically levied on certain goods deemed harmful to society and individuals, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, candies, soft drinks, fast foods, coffee, sugar, gambling, and pornography. In contrast to Pigovian taxes, which are to pay for the damage to society caused by these goods, sin taxes are used to increase the price in an effort to lower demand, or failing that, to increase and find new sources of revenue. Increasing a sin tax is often more popular than increasing other taxes. However, these taxes have often been criticized for burdening the poor, taxing the physically and mentally dependent, and being part of a nanny state.
The enactment of sin taxes on harmful activities varies by jurisdiction. In many cases, sumptuary taxes are implemented to mitigate use of alcohol and tobacco, gambling, and vehicles emitting excessive pollutants. Sumptuary tax on sugar and soft drinks has also been suggested. Some jurisdictions have also levied taxes on recreational drugs such as marijuana.
Revenue generated by sin taxes supports many projects imperative in accomplishing social and economic goals. American cities and counties have utilized funds from sin taxes to expand infrastructure, while in Sweden the tax for gambling is used for helping people with gambling problems. Acceptance of sumptuary taxes may be greater than income tax or sales tax.
When we rely on a sin tax for general revenues, we have a perverse incentive to maintain that revenue stream. It hurts government services when Canadians reduce their use of fossil fuels.