Smoking, drinking alcohol, and gambling are all — when done in excess — widely recognized as bad for your health. Yet millions of people enjoy such vices on a daily basis in the United States. To encourage healthier lifestyles, cover the eventual social costs, or help generate revenue some states tax these behaviors. All told, so-called sin taxes across the 50 states amounted to $55.43 billion in 2015.
Varying state regulations largely account for the differences in the proportions of revenue from sin taxes. For example, some states have fewer sin revenue streams than others, as commercial casinos are only legal in about half of all states. Similarly, seven states do not have lotteries.
> Pct. total revenue from sin: 3.7%
> Most profitable sin: Lottery
> Revenue from sin: $3.35 billion (4th highest)
> Population 18 and older: 79.8% (5th highest)
Some 3.7% of Florida’s $91.56 billion fiscal 2015 revenue came from taxes on alcohol and tobacco, sales of lottery tickets, and gaming taxes from casinos. In comparison, sin taxes averaged only about 2.5% of total revenue across all states. Floridians bought $5.28 billion in lottery tickets in 2015, more than in all but two other states. After subtracting administrative costs and winnings, lottery ticket proceeds brought in $1.49 billion, making lottery tickets the largest source of Florida’s total sin tax revenue of $3.35 billion.
Despite a lower than average adult smoking rate, tobacco taxes accounted for 1.3% of Florida’s total revenue — a larger share than in all but six other states. Tobacco sales closely trailed lottery tickets as the biggest boon for state coffers. Revenue from tobacco taxes alone amounted to $1.19 billion in 2015.
Overall, states’ revenue from lotteries totaled $21.36 billion in 2015, the most of any sin revenue. Smoking was the second largest sin revenue stream, as the 50 states collected $17.71 billion in tobacco taxes that year.
To determine the states profiting the most from sin, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the share of sin taxes out of total revenue for each state. Sin taxes are proceeds from lottery ticket sales, as well as taxes on casino gaming, beer and liquor, and tobacco.