If we want to improve public health worldwide, we have to start by decreasing or ending tobacco use worldwide. Clean air laws, graphic tobacco warning labels, education campaigns and banning advertising help, but raising tobacco taxes is “the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco among young people and poor people,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO) which has made this their campaign for the 2014 World No Tobacco Day on May 31st.
Studies have shown that a “10% increase in the price of cigarettes in developed countries will result in a 4% to 5% reduction in overall cigarette consumption.” In fact, a 2010 study in 20 lower-middle income countries found that a price increase of 10% would reduce consumption in youth aged 14 by 18%, more than three times higher than the consumption reduction achieved by the same measure among adults.”
Raising taxes on tobacco is a “win-win situation because they are good for both public health and government revenues.” Increasing the taxes saves lives by improving the health and “reducing the burden of disease and death” on governments as more people end their tobacco use. Collecting higher taxes means the government will earn a higher revenue. Those who no longer spend their earnings on tobacco, will now be able to purchase other consumer products and services. Youth and “lower income people are sensitive to price increases” and will “alter their consumption behavior by either quitting or reducing the level of tobacco consumption more than higher-income consumers,” thus improving their health.
The tax rate on a pack of cigarettes here in Florida is 133.9¢, which includes a surcharge of $1 per pack, ranking us 27th in the nation in cigarette tax rate. Loose tobacco/snuff is taxed at 85% of the wholesale price while cigars are not taxed at all. In 2009 when the Food and Drug Administration banned flavored cigarettes, except menthol, from being sold in the U.S. many products were reclassified by tobacco companies as “cigarillos” to avoid taxation and regulations by the FDA. The public should question why the tobacco industry is allowed to continue to sell these addictive tobacco products at prices below $1, which is easily affordable to many children. While the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 18 in Florida (as well as most of the nation), in 2013 3.1% of middle school and 9.3% of high school students reported smoking cigars in the past month, less than the 2.6% and 8.6% respectively who reported smoking cigarettes. Raising the taxes on all tobacco products here in Florida would decrease the number of youth not only trying tobacco but become regular tobacco users.
During this World No Tobacco Day, encourage your government leaders to put public health before the concerns of the tobacco industry.
Click here for the World Health Organization “Raising Tax on Tobacco.”