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Is your response to taxes genetic?

Dna_helixDo taxes influence your behavior?

If not, maybe it's because you just don't have the tax gene.

Jason M. Fletcher, an associate professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health, examined data from a national survey on smoking habits. He also collected biological specimens from the study participants for genotyping.

Fletcher found that around half of the folks studied had a variation in a gene in a brain receptor thought to control the amount of pleasure derived from nicotine consumption.

He then tracked the statistical relationship between taxation, smoking and the nicotine gene.

And he found that a 100 percent increase in taxes had a significant effect only on people with this particular genetic variation in DNA sequence. The other half of the population was immune to the higher taxes when it came to changing their habit.

OK. So it's not technically a tax gene.

But Fletcher says in his paper about the study, Why Have Tobacco Control Policies Stalled? Using Genetic Moderation to Examine Policy Impacts (published in PLOS ONE), that "there is emerging evidence that tax responses may be related to self control and other characteristics."

Of course, there's much work left to do.

"The large differentials in responses have not been fully examined or elucidated in order to predict individual differences and discover why taxation does not seem to work for everyone," he writes.

But if Fletcher is correct, his admittedly novel evidence of gene-policy interaction could mean that when it comes to curbing tobacco use, lawmakers might want to consider alternative methods.

And once the tobacco use problem is solved, what undesirable activity might be the next genetic tax target?

We could be on the verge of a brave new world of taxation and public policy.

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