Higher tobacco taxes drive down smoking rates

As state taxes on tobacco rise, smokers increasingly are kicking the habit, according to a USA Today analysis. In Connecticut, per-capita cigarette consumption is down 37% since the tax jumped to $1.51 a pack from 50 cents in 2002. New Jersey also tripled its state cigarette tax that year, and smoking has dropped by 35%, the paper says. In tobacco-growing South Carolina, the tax has remained at 7 cents per pack for 30 years, and cigarette smoking has dropped by just 5% since 2000.

If a proposed federal tobacco tax hike goes through, smoking rates could fall considerably more nationwide. "I expect a bigger drop than almost anything we've seen before," University of Illinois economist Frank Chaloupka is quoted as saying. The Senate approved a 61-cent-per-pack hike last week as part of a proposed SCHIP expansion, but President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

For more information:
- See the USA Today story. Article