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Higher Taxes and Strict Smoking Zones Have Reduced Cigarette Smoking in Youth

Higher Taxes and Strict Smoking Zones Have Reduced Cigarette Smoking in Youth

Author: Shernide Delva

Guidelines on smoking cigarettes continue to get stricter and stricter each year. We are a long ways from the lax nature of smoking that was prevalent a few decades ago. The days of smoking in airplanes and restaurants are long gone. Even I remember going to a restaurant as a child and the waiter asking my mom if she wanted to sit in the smoking or nonsmoking section. Do those sections exist anymore?

Smoking seems to be banned almost everywhere: Parks, libraries, work places, and even most bars. The pharmacy CVS decided earlier this year to ban smoking in all their establishments nationwide. My last year of college, Florida Atlantic University made the decision to become a smoke-free campus. Only a few establishments commonly allow smoking indoors like casinos and bars. However, as more people are breaking the habit, many bars and casinos have stopped tolerating smokers indoors.

To make it even more of a challenge, higher taxes on cigarettes have made smoking an expensive habit. President Obama proposed a plan to raise the federal excise tax on tobacco and use the extra revenue to expand preschool education.  In ten years, taxes collected are estimated to bring in $78 billion to finance early childhood education.

With all that said, it’s easy to wonder if all these bans are actually working?  Smoking cigarettes is legal and it’s still really easy to go into a gas station and buy a pack. You can smoke outside at most establishments and go to any smoking bar or casino and you’ll definitely see people lighting up all around you.

So is all of this working? Yes, apparently it is.

According to research conducted by UC San Francisco and UC Merced, increased taxes on cigarettes have discouraged teens and young adult from taking up smoking. The study published this month on September 8, used data on the smoking habits of 12- to 18-year-olds living throughout the country in 1997. They tracked them for 11 years as they transitions to young adulthood.

Researchers found that 100 percent smoke-free environments reduced the odds of taking up smoking by one third and the number of new smokers has decreased dramatically over time. The effects even impacted nonsmokers by protecting from the toxins of second hand smoke.

The study saw benefits from various different smoking bans in states across the country:

  • In states that had bans on smoking in bars, young adults were 20 percent less likely to become smokers. Current smokers smoked an average of 15 percent fewer days per month in states with these laws.
  • Smoking laws in the workplace seemed to generate the biggest results in reducing the instances of smoking. Back in 1997, no respondent had a workplace that had 100 percent smoke-free workplace laws.
  • As for taxes, the average state tax for cigarettes increased from 32.7 cents in 1995 to $1.20 in 2009. Research finds that with each ten cent tax increase, the odds of our youth starting to smoke decrease by 3 percent.
  • In California, the proposed $2 tax increase on cigarettes would cut youth smoking in half.

The study explained that even smoke-free laws affect our youth by “showing kids that adult smoking norms reject smoking.” So although a child may not be directly affected by the laws, being around stricter smoking laws sets the impression that cigarette smoking is discouraged by everyone around them.

The health implications of smoking cigarettes are more than clear now. We all know the risks. Still, many continue to smoke due to the extremely addictive nature of nicotine. Quitting is worth the effort though especially when you’ll save time and money. There are many support groups that help make quitting more manageable.

In the path to recovery, giving up the smoking habit could be the next step to becoming a healthier you.

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