Sin Tax, Forgiveness and Public Health Governance

14 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2012

See all articles by John D. Blum

John D. Blum

Loyola University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: April 9, 2012


This essay will explore sin taxes at a foundational level examining the explicit and implicit ramifications of this public policy. The primary purposes of sin taxes can be found in the underlying (albeit contradictory) elements of revenue generation and public health and these two factors serve as core points of analysis, that underscore a growing disconnect between these elements, calling into question the viability of such a public health governance structure. A lesser explored approach to sin taxes is to analyze the implicit message of this taxing strategy as a type of license to engage in the very conduct such an instrument is directed to prevent. Pushing the implicit inquiry, it can be argued that sin taxes extend beyond a mere gesture of acquiescence and constitute a deliberate form of public forgiveness. Unlike most forms of forgiveness that have been identified in the literature, sin tax seen as a modern day indulgence may ,in fact ,promote a public health policy that is both irresponsible and counterproductive. This essay will examine the link between forgiveness and sin taxes in three parts. First the nature and purposes of sin taxes will be explored. Second, the piece will consider the link between forgiveness and sin tax, and lastly it will explore whether sin taxes can be reformed in ways that are more consistent with improved public health governance.

Keywords: sin taxes, health reform, taxation, public health

JEL Classification: H24, H51, I18, K34

Suggested Citation

Blum, John D., Sin Tax, Forgiveness and Public Health Governance (April 9, 2012). Loyola University Chicago School of Law Research Paper No. 2012-010, Available at SSRN: or

John D. Blum (Contact Author)

Loyola University of Chicago Law School ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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