CIGARETTE TAXES: Big Impact On Minorities And Youths
A new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appearing in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that lower-income, minority, and younger populations are more likely than other groups to quit or reduce their smoking in response to cigarette price increases (HHS release, 7/30). The Los Angeles Times reports that according to the CDC, "compared to white smokers, Latinos are 14 times more likely and blacks twice as likely to reduce or quit smoking" in response to price hikes (Yang, 7/31). The report predicts that a 50% increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes would "cut consumption by 7% among whites, 16% among blacks and as much as 95% among Hispanics." Overall, the CDC estimates that such a price hike would reduce by 12.5%, or 3.5 million, the number of smokers in America, with millions more reducing their levels of consumption. Researchers also found that "[r]ates of quitting were strongly tied to age." While a 10% rise in prices would cause a 25% decrease in smoking among Hispanics ages 18-24, the decline fell to about half that percentage among Hispanics in the 25-39 age group. The CDC figures are based on an "analysis of 14 years of health data from the National Health Interview Survey." The Washington Post reports that the "367,106 people responding to the surveys provided their own racial classification" (Schwartz, 7/31).
Various public health officials lauded the findings as proof of the efficacy of tax hikes for reducing smoking rates. Michael Eriksen, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, said, "In the past, people criticized cigarette tax increases as being more of a burden on minority groups. ... We controlled for people of the same income level and still found that they are more likely to quit." Kenneth Warner, professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, said, "This study is simply one more nail in the coffin, as it were, in the argument that price doesn't matter. It clearly does matter." The tobacco industry, however, said that price alone is an insufficient predictor of smoking rates. Industry spokesperson Scott Williams said, "I am not aware that the CDC is an economic organization, and yet they are making economic judgements in a study based on how people will behave based on price" (Los Angeles Times, 7/31). Click here to read the complete CDC report.