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Cigarette Tax Increase Leads to Drop in Smoking

Posted July 16, 2007

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— A year after North Carolina increased its cigarette tax, cigarette sales statewide dropped by 18.5 percent, state officials said Monday.

At the same time, the tax increase generated an extra $157 million in state revenue, officials said.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health and the North Carolina Department of Revenue compiled the data covering a year from September 2005, when the state raised the tax from 5 cents to 30 cents per pack. Another nickel was tacked onto the tax last July.

"The impact that a tobacco tax makes on smoking cessation, increased revenue and decreasing health care costs is well established in the national literature. It's great to see it play out in North Carolina," said Dr. Leah Devlin, state health director.

Research shows that, for every 10 percent increase in the cigarette tax, there is a 4 percent to 7 percent drop in smoking rates, with the largest effect among youth smokers, Devlin said.

The state's smoking rate has dropped steadily in recent years. Adult tobacco use rates have dropped from 25 percent in 2001 to 22.1 percent last year, and now are 2 percentage points higher than the national average.

Smoking rates among middle school and high school students fell even more dramatically over that time, with middle school rates dropping by 61 percent and high school rates falling by more than a third.

For every percentage point drop, anti-smoking advocates estimate $1 billion in long-term health care savings.

"We have enormous challenges ahead, and this is a very evidence-based, very effective strategy for bringing down those smoking rates," Devlin said.

95 Comments

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  • bill0 Jul 18, 2007

    Any first semester economy student can tell you that if you raise the price, fewer people will but the product. It was amazing that there were even people who took the other side in this debate.

    As for the tax side, having separate tax rates for different items is hardly new. You will hear many people complain about a different tax rate on cigarettes, but you rarely here the same people say the tax difference between capital gains vs income is unfair. How about the tax exempt status of churches? Charities? Giving anyone a "special break" automatically makes someone else pay more than their share. At least smokers get the satisfaction of knowing they will stick the rest of us with a WAY bigger bill for healthcare than they are paying in cig taxes.

  • innocent bystander Jul 18, 2007

    "...living a sedimentary life style."

    I agree--we should strive to live a more "igneous" or "metamorphic" lifestyle!

  • 68_polara Jul 18, 2007

    No, alcohol is next, then fast-food joints, then home entertainment industry for keeping you indoors living a sedimentary life style. I guess were not smart enough to live our own lives so we will continue to empower the government with the ability to levy sin taxes to control our behavior.

  • dohicky Jul 18, 2007

    Wonder where the government will get the money they got from cigarettes when no one smokes. Oh, I forgot, they can always increase taxes and fee - taxpayers will have to pay.

    I know smoking is not healthy, heard it since I could understand what 'no' meant. I am just waiting for someone to speak out against alcohol - wonder how much that cost in health care. Come to think of it I never saw anyone that had one too many (cigarettes that is) kill an innocent person because they drove afterwards. Never heard of that one-too-many cigarrete causing a man to abuse his wife and family either.

    Guess alcohol is politically correct and tobacco isn't.

  • innocent bystander Jul 18, 2007

    now SteveCrisp...you asked for citations from reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals--not Better Homes & Gardens. Why would you bother asking someone for references to a body of professional literature for which you cannot even access? Have you ever even heard of any of those journals? And here, I was waiting to hear your expert critique of the methodologic limitations of the published literature on the issue. Maybe Elcid was right afterall--I did waste my time responding to you.

    Do yourself a favor and just stick with the Phillip Morris website for your "scientific" information on the health effects of tobacco. You'll be happier, because they'll tell you just what you want to believe anyway.

  • elcid89 Jul 18, 2007

    "Are you people seriously saying that you're going to develop problems from second hand smoke b/c you happen to walk past the smoking section in a restaurant? You happen to take 2 steps past someone who is smoking? You act like we blow it in your face...in fact you're probably not getting any of the chemicals at all."

    You are forgetting that virtually every smoking section around (and certainly every one I have ever seen) is not physically separated from the adjoining non-smoking sections. It's not a case where you smoke, it magically stays in a tight little radius around your table and nobody else breathes it in. It mixes and gets distributed throughout the air in the room, and everybody breathes it in.

    The only true smoking section would be a room sealed off from the rest of the place with separate ventilation systems. Everything else is nothing of the sort.

  • Steve Crisp Jul 18, 2007

    Any chemical in second hand smoke is no different from any chemical found in nature, either naturally or through man-made dispersal over the decades. Many of the same chemicals in SHS are also found in the product of buring wood stoves. And automobile exhaust. And the air and water of the homes of non-smokers. We all drink arsinic all the time. And we all consume cynanide. And radioactive material. And a million other things in concentrations that are so low so as to be difficult to measure. Remember two things:

    1. The invocation of the term "chemical" itself is a means for liberals to scare people about supposed dangers. Water is a chemical.

    2. Just because a chemical is present, does not mean that it is dangerous. Even the inventor of the AMES test for carcinogenity now admits that the methodology is completely bogus.

    And Bob, do you mind actually giving citations that do not require expensive subscriptions to access on line?

  • moglinferno Jul 18, 2007

    Are you people seriously saying that you're going to develop problems from second hand smoke b/c you happen to walk past the smoking section in a restaurant? You happen to take 2 steps past someone who is smoking? You act like we blow it in your face...in fact you're probably not getting any of the chemicals at all.

  • lolly Jul 18, 2007

    elcid - please get a golo profile. You do not have to reveal any personal stuff. When there are long time lapses between the forum comments, it is more certain that the discussion can be seen in the profile. Even tho the "commentzapper3000" still monitors for forbidden words, you do not have to worry about staying on topic in your profile.

    ON TOPIC: Gosh Elcid - all those chemicals, huh?

  • OLD PIRATE Jul 18, 2007

    NO its 29 cent per gallon in NC plus 24.4 federal...
    But its only tax so that doesn't count. You can still blame the oil companies for everything and get away from the real blame. How many people have lost their jobs over the cigarette tax issue. And I'm a non smoker for the record.

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