High taxes deter some youths from smoking

Posted: May 19, 2012

Fewer American teenagers and young adults are lighting up as cigarette taxes that have broken the $3-a-pack threshold in some states make smoking too costly, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Daily smoking, the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States, fell to 15.8 percent in 2010 among young adults 18 to 25, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in a report. That share was down from 20.4 percent in 2004. Everyday smoking among people 12 to 17 dropped to about 2 percent from 3.3 percent.

Increased education and enforcement efforts targeting younger smokers combined with "substantial increases in cigarette taxes," contributed to the decline, the agency said. The mean state excise tax on cigarettes reached $1.46 a pack last year, up from $1.34 in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York, among five states charging $3 or more in taxes, had the highest levy at $4.35.

"Although some progress has been made in curbing youth smoking, the fact remains that one in 12 adolescents currently smoke and one in three young adults smoke, which means that far too many young people are still endangering their lives," Pamela Hyde, the agency's administrator, said in a statement.

Young adults who reported cigarette use in the last month, either daily or more casually, declined to 34.2 percent in 2010, from 39.5 percent in 2004, according to the agency. Rates among adolescents fell to 8.3 percent in 2010, from 11.9 percent.

Health education programs in schools, antismoking campaigns that educate young people, increased enforcement of laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to people younger than 18, and higher taxes are helping, the mental health agency said.

A 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes can reduce consumption almost 4 percent among adults and can have an even greater effect on youths, according to the CDC.

In addition to state taxes, the federal government tacks on $1.01, and local municipalities can levy their own charges. New York City adds $1.50 on top of the state and federal taxes, and Cook County, Illinois, adds $2.68 a pack, according to the CDC. Missouri had the lowest cigarette tax last year at 17 cents.

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