The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 5, 2013

Packs and the pocketbook

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— Attacking the pocketbook is one of the best strategies to combat youth smoking, said the Tobacco Free Coalition.

The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in Oklahoma is $4.86, the 31st highest figure in the United States. TFC said Oklahoma ranks third in the country in the percentage of adults who smoke at 26.1 percent, and the price of each pack of cigarettes includes just more than $1 in state taxes.

A carton of cigarettes costs about $43. Diana Karbs, of Okeene, on Dec. 28 celebrated six months without a cigarette. She estimated she is saving $120 a month since kicking her smoking habit. At that rate, it will take a year to pay for the medical care to get her well, she said. While she admits nicotine is habit forming, she said no one thinks they will get sick.

However, smoking-related health costs in 2004 were $1.16 billion.

Numerous economic studies in peer-reviewed journals have documented that cigarette taxes or price increases reduce both adult and underage smoking. The general consensus is that every 10 percent increase in the real price of cigarettes reduces overall cigarette consumption by approximately 3-5 percent, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5 percent and the number of kids who smoke by 6 or 7 percent.

Research studies also have found that:

• Cigarette price and tax increases work even more effectively to reduce smoking among males, blacks, Hispanics and lower-income smokers.

• A cigarette tax increase that raises prices by 10 percent will reduce smoking among pregnant women by 7 percent, preventing thousands of spontaneous abortions and still-born births, and saving tens of thousands of newborns from suffering smoking-affected births and related health consequences, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

The campaign also states cigarette companies know taxes hamper sales. An internal memo from R.J. Reynolds stated if prices were 10 percent higher, age 12-17 incidence (youth smoking) would be 11.9 percent lower.

A memo from the Phillip Morris Co. states, “It is clear that price has a pronounced effect on the smoking prevalence of teenagers, and that the goals of reducing teenage smoking and balancing the budget would both be served by increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes,” according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.