While conservatives have been quick to denounce cap and trade energy legislation as (what else?) socialism, via TPM it seems at least one conservative is embracing market based strategies for …tobacco:
[Rep. Steve] Buyer [R-IN]said that cessation programs have a success rate of only 7% — meaning that we are accepting failure by going down this road. Instead, he said, we should be using market innovation to migrate populations over to safer and more mild tobacco products, which in turn could help people quit.
As far as I know, Rep. Buyer hasn’t articulated what sort of market based solutions he envisions implementing to push people towards “harm-reduction choices,” but he might want to consider something resembling cap and trade. That is, each year, set a hard cap on the amount of nicotine (or other chemicals) permitted in tobacco products. This would drive the price of high-nicotine products higher, and demand would shift towards “harm-reduction choices.” Though it wouldn’t be necessary, you could even institute an auction program (the “trade” part) to allow nicotine production over the cap and use the revenues garnered to pay for health care expenses. This way, people who actively and consciously drive health costs (chronic diseases, of which cigarette smoking causes many, lead the ballooning of health care expenses) would contribute more than the rest of us to fix the problem. Sounds fair, right?
Of course, the resulting tobacco black market would foil the plan in practice, but it’s interesting how conservatives might embrace market driven competition to create safer tobacco products yet find the same policy to prevent catastrophic climate change to be a form of virulent socialism.