Incredibly, the World Health Organization says 5.4 million people around the planet suffer agonized early death each year because of tobacco smoking. Cigarettes are an international curse — the worst cause of unnecessary sickness and lost lifespan.
Tobacco firms are, in effect, drug pushers. Their profits depend on getting young people addicted to nicotine, a drug with a grip as powerful as that of heroin. As long as smokers are unable to break the addiction, tobacco profits roll in.
The latest New England Journal of Medicine says the world could avoid 200 million needless deaths by 2025 — and also gain trillions in tax revenue — if tobacco taxes were tripled worldwide, preventing millions of youths from becoming addicted.
Prabhat Jha, author of the new study, says France cut its tobacco consumption in half between 1990 and 2005 by imposing drastic tax increases.
He added that the United States and Canada could reap $100 billion extra revenue each year if they merely doubled cigarette taxes.
He also commented:
"Death and taxes are inevitable, but they don't need to be in that order. A higher tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers."
NOTE: Missouri ranks 51st, or dead last, in tobacco excise taxes (the list includes Puerto Rico). The average among U.S. states is $1.50 per pack; in Missouri, it's 17 cents a pack, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.
Since 2002, 47 states, Washington, D.C., and several U.S. territories have increased their cigarette tax rates 110 times. Missouri voters defeated a proposition in November 2012 to raise the cigarette tax, as they did in 2002 and 2006.
The most recent ballot issue failed by a slim percentage — 51-49. Boone County voters approved it, as did nearly every county in and around St. Louis.
The proposition was intended to increase funding for public education and tobacco cessation and prevention programs. It targeted 50 percent of tax revenue for K-12 public education, 30 percent for higher education and the remaining 20 percent for smoking cessation and prevention programs.
The fiscal note on the ballot issue estimated it would generate $283 million to $423 million per year.
Copyright, the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette. Distributed by the Associated Press.