The more you raise cigarette taxes, the less people smoke. That presumption was confirmed this week in a study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This has some resonance in Kentucky, where just last week the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform told Gov. Beshear the state should raise taxes on tobacco, to $1 per pack from 60 cents. Other forms of tobacco would get a corresponding tax hike, reports Beth Musgrave of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The changes would raise an estimated $120 million in revenue and, if the research is right, cut down on long-term health care costs.
The researchers are the most adamant about the last point. “Most clinicians and researchers thought these very heavy smokers would be the most resistant to price increases,” says study author Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “But our study points out that, in fact, change can occur. And that’s very good news.” In fact, in states where taxes on tobacco products rose by at least 35 percent, heavy smokers -- who averaged 40 cigarettes a day or more -- lowered their daily smoking by 14 cigarettes, on average. In real numbers, the price for a pack of cigarettes increased from an average of $3.96 in 2001 to $4.41 in 2004. (Read more)
In Kentucky last year, almost 30 percent of residents said they were smokers, the highest in the nation. The state also has the highest rates of diabetes and lung cancer, reports Jim Malewitz of Stateline News. Kentucky’s cigarette tax is also among the country's lowest.