WHAT YOU SAID: Will higher cigarette costs affect smoking rates?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | 6:21 p.m. CDT; updated 5:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 18, 2012

We asked readers if they thought increasing the tax on cigarette packs would prevent people from smoking, as part of our reporting on the tobacco tax ballot measure. (See the related story here.)

Sixteen people responded to our questionnaire. Fourteen people gave us permission to publish their responses. Of those 14,  nine indicated that yes, higher costs would help prevent smoking, and five said no, they wouldn't.

Some of our respondents expanded on their yes-or-no answers, and we have included their thoughts below:

Do you think making it more expensive to buy cigarettes will prevent people, especially younger people, from smoking?

Mark Yount: Probably not significantly. However, the very notion of "sin taxes" should be offensive to anyone who cares about liberty and personal freedom. If cigarettes are REALLY so dangerous that the government wants to eliminate smoking, they should be made illegal. As long as they're legal (and I think they should remain that way), they should be taxed at the same rate as anything else. Personally, I'd encourage everyone to not smoke/give up smoking –but they should have the freedom to make that choice on their own. It's not the government's job to protect people from their own poor decisions.

Tyler Shoemaker: I don't believe it will, and if it does, the effect will be minimal. Smoking is an addiction, and the only thing that will prevent people from using is education on the adverse health effects and convincing them that a change is necessary to prevent them from painful and expensive health complications. I don't believe a $0.60 tax increase will deter many from smoking and I especially don't think it will keep kids from starting (most likely, the first one will be free, anyway.) Studies have shown that taxes like this (on alcohol, tobacco, etc.) disproportionately affect low-income citizens as well. Raise taxes in order to fund education if needed, sure, but don't instate taxes that unjustly burden a minority of the population.

Julie  Saperstein: Of course not. It might cause some people to smoke a bit less, but it definitely won't have much of an impact. Pigovian taxes are good sources of revenue for a reason: people would rather pay than stop. I don't smoke much, but a higher tax definitely won't deter me from buying a pack before I go out to parties.

Dean Andersen: Absolutely! Other states have done it and have the results to show it. Missouri has the lowest cigarette taxes in the country and one of the highest smoking rates. These high smoking rates cast tax payers hundreds of millions a year in smoking related health care costs! Missouri can reduce smoking rates, reduce money spent on health care, and make our state healthier simply by voting to increase the excise tax by 73 cents!

Jenna Jordan: Absolutely. As a public health professional and smoking cessation coach, I have seen evidence-based research proving this and heard it from firsthand from smokers. The tax increase will be an important motivator in helping those who are already thinking about quitting to do so and help move an addictive and harmful product out of teenagers' price range.

Robert Proctor: Of course it will prevent people from smoking, and we can even say pretty close by how much — and how many lives will be saved. Cigarettes have a price elasticity of about -.4, which means that for every 10 percent increase in price, we will see a 4 percent decrease in consumption. Missourians presently smoke about 548 million packs per year, which means that a 16.4 % increase in price will decrease consumption by about 6.6 %. So instead of 548 million packs of cigarettes smoked per year, you will have 512 million packs smoked per year, a reduction of 36 million packs, or 720 million cigarettes. Since one person is killed for every million cigarettes smoked, this means that the passage of Missouri's 90 cent tax would save about 720 lives per year. I can send you peer reviewed documentation for this method if you like.

Kimberly Nolte: Absolutely. Especially young people because they have less disposable income to spend on cigarettes. I think it will also motivate older people to quit!

Alma Hopkins: Yes — its not a matter of thinking about it — but matter of fact. Tobacco companies and their allies know it will reduce the # of teens starting and the # of smokers quitting, which mean less revenue. This is why they fight it so hard. But the truth always comes out. These tax revenues would mean monies going to prevention and cessation. Its the right thing to do and better to vote in favor of. We have our kids to think about.

Traci Kennedy: Evidence shows that for every 10% increase in the price of tobacco, there is an associated 6-7% observed decrease in youth smoking. Young people are most sensitive to price and with 47 other states raising their tobacco tax in the last decade, there is solid evidence to support the conclusion.

Robyn Roberts: Not at all! Making it more expensive will NOT prevent people especially younger people from smoking!

Misty Jordan: I think that it will make youth and adults both consider if they want to continue to smoke. Many youth will be prevented from smoking by increasing the price also.

Brittany Russell: Yes. Studies have shown that raising the excise tax on tobacco products is an effective way to lower youth smoking rates. It's estimated that by raising the MO tax to $.90 will keep 40,100 kids from becoming smokers. If we can raise the cost by $.73 and save so many kids from struggling with a very real and serious addiction, why shouldn't we?


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