A large increase in the federal tax on cigarettes took effect April 1st and public health experts are hoping it may prompt 1 million U.S. smokers to quit.
The funds from the tax increase are being used to expand a public health insurance program for lower income children. Beginning April 1st, the federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes will be about $1.01 per pack, up from the current 39 cents on a $4.35 pack.
Smoking kills about 440,000 Americans annually and the average lifespan lost for a smoker is 12 years.
Danny McGoldrick, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids advocacy group’s vice president for research, said “the formula is simple: as prices rise, fewer people buy cigarettes”. McGoldrick forecasts the tax hike will persuade just over 1 million current smokers to quit and prevent 2 million children from starting. These changes will also prevent about 905,000 smoking-related deaths, McGoldrick predicted.
President Barack Obama signed the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program on February 4. President George W. Bush had twice vetoed the bill, which also raises federal taxes on cigars and other tobacco products.
The good news is U.S. smoking rates have been declining slowly for decades. The CDC’s most recent data showed about 19.8 percent of U.S. adults — 43.4 million people — were smokers in 2007.
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