Voters Prefer Tobacco Tax Increase Over Other Options, Survey Finds

By Genevieve Belmaker, Epoch Times
February 12, 2010 Updated: February 12, 2010

Given a choice on a type of tax increase, voters would likely prefer an increase on tobacco, according to finding issued in a new report. The report, titled “Tobacco Taxes: A Win-Win-Win for Cash-Strapped States,” found an increase of $1 on the tax for cigarettes would raise billions of dollars for states that are in dire financial straits.

A national poll, conducted in conjunction with the report, found that a majority of voters—67 percent—would support the $1 increase. Other options, such as budget cuts and tax increases on other items, were less popular.

The survey of 847 registered voters was conducted from January 20-24, 2010, by International Communications Research, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

The report was cooperatively commissioned by the Campaign for Tobacco—Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The organizations are also pushing the measure as a means to help reduce the number of teen smokers in the U.S.

The report includes a breakdown of benefits by state on the Campaign for Tobacco—Free Kids Web site. If every state and Washington, D.C. participated in the increase, benefits would include $9.1 billion in annual revenue and 2.3 million fewer new child smokers. The report also claims that it would save $52.8 in health care costs.

"We have irrefutable evidence that raising the tobacco tax lowers smoking rates among adults and deters millions of children from picking up their first cigarette," stated John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in press release about the study. "An increase in tobacco tax rates is not only sound public health policy but a smart and predictable way to help boost the economy and generate long-term health savings for states facing deepening budget deficits."

The projections in the report are based on research findings, which point to a correlation between every 10 percent increase in cigarette prices and reductions in youth smoking rates of about 6.5 percent. The correlation of the same change for adult smoking rates is about 2 percent.

The average tax on cigarettes by state is currently $1.34 per pack. Rates range from a low of 7 cents in South Carolina to a high of $3.46 in Rhode Island.

Tobacco use is known to be the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. According to the report, it kills over 400,000 people and costs $96 billion a year in health care costs.