The case for a cigarette tax, in one graphic


That's from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities's Chuck Marr, who adds:

  1. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the United States. It accounts for about 443,000 deaths each year, or about 20 percent of all deaths — some 50,000 of them from secondhand smoke.

  2. Tobacco taxes are a proven strategy to reduce smoking, especially among younger people, and extend lives. As the graph shows, a 10 percent rise in cigarette prices will reduce smoking by 5-15 percent among people under age 18 and by 3-7 percent among adults, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.  Cutting consumption among young people is especially important:  four in five adult smokers started before they were 18.

  3. Health benefits for low-income people would more than compensate for the regressive tax increase. Some opponents argue that raising tobacco taxes would unfairly affect low-income people since they have higher smoking rates. But low-income people would also benefit more from the health improvements from cutting consumption, since they smoke more and are more likely than better-off people to stop smoking (or not start) if tobacco taxes rise.  Lower-income families would also benefit more from the expanded access to early childhood education that these tax revenues would finance.

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Sarah Kliff · June 20, 2013