How to reduce smokers is an actual question for most governments. This policy is a result of a growing concern for the health hazards of tabacco and a following general trend to reduce smoking in the most developed countries.
Indeed, the « smoking problem » within the population is one of the most important health subject inthe society.
In this essay i will focus on the french smoking problem.
Why is it a topic of public policy?
Public policy refers to government decisions and actions intended to address perceived public problem. As smoking causes costs that have to be carried by the whole society and not just by the individual smoker such as growing costs for health insurances it must be regarded as a publicproblem. By raising taxes and/or passing laws to regulate smoking within the society the several governments try to solve this problem. Because of this the solving of this public problem is a topic of public policy.
Significant data about smoking in France
First of all, we can have a look at this alarming french statistics about tabacco.
Every year, in France 100 billion cigarettes aresmoked by more than 14 million of smokers. That’s means around 25% of the whole population smoke (one person for fourth are smoker). Moreover, 50% of the population between 18 and 34 years old are smokers which is a very alarming number as 82 % of the adult smokers started smoking before they turned 20.
Which are the consequences for the public health ?
More than 66 000 deaths per year arerelated to tobacco in France. The problem is also about the passive smoker, indeed passive smoking kills every year 3000 to 5000 which represents 13 deaths per day.
Market failure occuring because of smoking
The french economic market is a « free market » so it can normally work without the interference of the government. Nevertheless, there is one type of market failure occuring because ofsmoking within the population which is externalities.
Externalities can be defined like is a postive or negative impact on any third party not involved in a given economic action. This third part is here the government which has to take part in this market between the tabacco consumer and the tabacco seller. Thus, the government has to take part of it because of the negatives externalities results ofthis market failure : like diseases of the smokers which increase the costs of health insurance and also the problem with the passive smokers or naturally for the preservation of public health.
So smoking has negative externalities for the population (health insurance) and also for the State.
Therefore we can ask the question : How do the governments try to correct these negative externalities?How do the governments try to correct these negative externalities ?
These externalities have caused serious problems justifying government intervention.
There are three main solutions to correct externalities :
1. First of all, one solution can be fighting externalities by Quantity Policy. Quantity Policy take the form of commands or controls, for example with the pollution ofthe firms or airplane company. But this solution is not fitting with smoking externalities because the government could not controlled the number of cigarettes which people smoke.
2. The second potential solution to correct externalities is the Regulation. By regulation, it’s mean by a ban which could regulate and correct externalities.
3. The third possibility to correct externalities is aPigouvian tax on the activity. It’ s a tax levied to correct the negative externalities of a market activity. In a true market economy, a Pigovian tax is the most efficient and effective way to correct negative externalities (we will see if it’s true in our example).
So, we understood that only regulation and Pigouvian tax solutions could be applicable in the case of correcting externalities...