I've always hated people who argue that the state is justified in nannying us about our eating habits and smoking, because after all, it raises health care costs. There's a creeping totalitarianism about it--"Well, we nationalized health care, so now we get to supervise your every move to make sure you don't cost too much!"

Of course, even arguing thusly joins in the assumption that smoking and obesity do drive up health care costs. This seems to be in some doubt. Cancer and massive myocardial infarctions may be expensive, but not nearly as expensive as, say, a prolonged bout with Alzheimers requiring a decade of long-term care. Dying young, even of an expensive disease, turns out to be cheaper than living a long, healthy life. If you really want to save money, you should probably start taxing fitness club memberships.

[So why do health insurance companies spend money on smoking reduction and weight-loss programs? --ed. Because your dying young is expensive for them. People who live a long time die on Medicare's dime.]

Of course, we're not actually trying to save money; presumably, we all agree that it would be nice if everyone lived a long time, even if that meant they cost a boatload more in medical costs. But this is not a good argument for attempting to force them into healthier habits through things like sin taxes. And every time someone wants to raise the taxes on tobacco or sue Coca-cola for being too damn delicious, we hear that we're entitled, because after all, they're costing us money.

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