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News

Report tells heavy cost society bears for smoking

George Haws

Smoking places a heavy toll on society, and a new report states how serious the financial burden is.

On Wednesday, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) issued the following statement: “Nationally, estimated smoking-caused health costs and lost productivity total $19.16 per pack” of cigarettes smoked.  That is over three times the average price of a pack of cigarettes, including taxes.

All fifty states, the U.S. territories, Washington D.C., and some cities have an excise tax on cigarettes, (separate from regular sales taxes). The federal government also collects $1.01 tax per pack. The goal is to offset some of the health care costs that society bears, and to discourage smoking.

However, cigarette excise taxes vary widely.  The highest is in Puerto Rico, where the tax rate was just increased to $5.10 per pack. Nebraska ranks 41st of the 50 states, with the low tax rate of $0.64. Nebraska has not raised its rate for 15 years.

The tobacco industry lobbies hard against tax increases. At the same time, it markets  its products aggressively: in magazines, in movies, in video games, over the Internet and, especially, at the store level. The CTFK report stated that, as a result, one in ten children become smokers by the time they leave high school (2016, Univ. of Michigan research).

CTFK quoted former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who said “5.6 million children under age 18 alive today will eventually die from smoking-related disease, unless current rates are reversed” (2014).

Smokers pay a heavy price for their addiction. The financial toll on society is substantial. Only the tobacco industry wins.