How is that different to criminalizing smoking in a car with your children forced to inhale the smoke? Here, let me help - imagine for a second that smoking in a car with your children is illegal, and then we'll try your paragraph again with the nouns changed:
That's not even remotely the same thing: smoking in a car with your children is illegal, which means it's not just a risky behavior, it's a criminal one. It's not a matter of semantics: firstly, smokers who smoke in a car with their children are not punished because they may hurt themselves, they are punished because they could end up killing someone else. Secondly, the law distinguishes between the bad behavior (SIACWYC) and its ultimate consequences (manslaughter). Thirdly, the punishment is more socially fair (or should be, let's not get there just yet).
I don't know if that's a straw man or you just didn't read what I wrote.
I oppose preemptive taxation of bad behaviors on the ground that people might hurt themselves. I do not oppose outlawing behaviors that physically harm others, especially minors. If you want to ban smoking in cars altogether, be my guest: it would be consistent with other existing laws anyway.
I don't see how that view is consistent with the fundamental lemma of Capitalism, i.e. that rewarding good behaviour with money encourages that good behaviour.
I'm all for rewarding good behavior. The problem is we are talking about punishing bad behavior which is an entirely different thing; it's the hairy cousin with social issues.
And it also doesn't seem to reflect reality. In the UK, for instance, we've been increasingly taxing the use of petrol more and more with really unpopular fuel taxes - making a litre of gas in the UK more than three times as expensive as an equivalent one in the US. And people drive their cars less because of it.
Taxes aren't popular, but claiming that they are ineffective at driving behaviour is another thing entirely.
My experience is that those prices are way off. As in way, way off, but let's move on.
Taxes are the crudest tool of social engineering there is: the fact that you obtain some average goal doesn't tell the whole story and might hide some unintended side effect. I cannot speculate on your example without further data, but I would be really surprised if it turned out to be the first case in history of a socially fair excise tax.
Point in case: tobacco is heavily taxed in most countries, and increasingly so. Yet, consumption data indicate that it is less prevalent, and declining more rapidly, in the more affluent groups. That's inconsistent with price being the driving factor.
That's not surprising: as I already said before, the notion that you can cure an addiction with taxes is preposterous. In general, trying to pressure people to change their ways without consideration for the underlying causes and conditions, is ineffective and misguided. It's the lesser evil when there's the health or freedom of others at stake, but unacceptable otherwise.