Pennsylvania Sin Tax

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Are Looking to Levy a Sin Tax Against Certain Video Games

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The Pennsylvania bill introduced states that any game with an “M” or “AO” rating would be subject to a 10% tax.

A “sin tax” is an excise, or use, tax on socially harmful goods such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, or even, in states such a NY or WA, sugar. The objective of the tax is twofold, to discourage users from purchasing items by making them cost prohibitive and using the proceeds to fund the treatment of the public health costs. The bill in Pennsylvania allocates the revenue from the tax to enhance safety measures in public schools.

Representative Christopher B. Quinn, who introduced the bill, argues that acts of violence in school are increasing, with a contributing factor being the violence kids see and act out in video games. Quinn references a study by the National Center for Health Research that stated, “studies have shown that playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in both the short-term and long-term. Violent video games can also desensitize people to seeing aggressive behavior and decrease pro-social behaviors such as helping another person and feeling empathy (the ability to understand others). The longer that individuals are exposed to violent video games, the more likely they are to have aggressive behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.”

However it fails to mention that research also shows that there is no good evidence linking video games or other media to mass homicides or violence among youth. There are a number of contributing factors to aggressive behavior such as mental illness, adverse environments, and access to guns.

Previously the US Supreme Court made the decision video games are entitled to the full protection of the constitution and therefore are not to be singled out based on their content. The Entertainment Software Association, which represents video game publishers, encourages legislators and others to “to work with us to raise awareness about parental controls and the ESRB video game rating system, which are effective tools to ensure parents maintain control over the video games played in their home.”

Games rated “M” advises parents that the content is suitable for players over the age of 17. Popular M rated games include the recently released Resident Evil 2, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty and more.

How do you feel about this proposed sin tax? Let us know in the comments!

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