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There Are 3 Million Fewer Smokers in the US Today Than in 2009 — Why the Huge Drop?

Smoker on May 31, 2011 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

It appears as if some smokers have been forced to either kick the habit or go broke, as a new study recently found that a massive tobacco tax increase may be responsible for the decline in smokers in this country, specifically among teens, the lower class and those who receive welfare.

After President Obama signed the largest tobacco tax to take effect during his term, the federal cigarette tax soared from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack. The tax was to be used to help further the development and growth of children’s health care.

That it did. Tax records indicate that more than $30 million in new revenue has been generated since the tax hike was implemented in 2009.

However, after the tax increase caused cigarette prices to rise well above what they had been in over a decade, many people gave them up, resulting in about three million fewer smokers last year than in 2009, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two-thirds of the American smoking population with families making less than $50,000 felt the impact the most, while members of the teen tokers association dropped off by about 13 percent from the moment the tax hike was put into motion.

Yet, the tax increase cannot take all the credit for getting more people to quit, since a greater percentage of the population today is faced with a multitude of influences like health concerns, smoke-free workplaces and social areas, as well as price increases set forth by the tobacco companies.

David Sutton, spokesperson for Altria Group, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, says that taxes are very influential to consumer behavior, as well as burdensome, claiming that 55 percent of Marlboro’s retail price is consumed by taxes and fees.

Reports from the CDC indicate that the federal tax increase is responsible for the highest reduction of tobacco use in recorded history – down nearly 19 percent in 2011.

Here is a further look into the study results:

  • Hispanics and senior citizens had the most drastic decline in tobacco use – down more than 15 percent from 2008.
  • More women quit than men did.
  • Middle-aged men were barely affected – down just 1.2 percent.
  • Approximately 1 million adult Medicaid subscribers quit smoking.
  • Tobacco spending increased from $80 billion in 2008 to $98 billion in 2011 – even with overall tobacco purchases falling by 11 percent.

[USA Today]

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