WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fourteen states and the District of Columbia raised cigarette taxes in 2009, but none of the new money went to programs to cut smoking and prevent tobacco-related disease, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.
Higher cigarette taxes can substantially curb smoking but states can make an even bigger dent by investing the new funds in programs to help people quit, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“None of the 15 states dedicated any of the new excise tax revenue by statute to tobacco control,” lead author Karen Debrot of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health wrote.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing nearly one in five deaths per year, according to the CDC.
All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have cigarettes taxes.
The national average state cigarette tax rose from $1.18 per pack in 2008 to $1.34 per pack in 2009, the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.
“A 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes can reduce consumption by nearly 4 percent among adults and can have an even greater effect among youths and other price-sensitive groups,” the CDC wrote in a commentary.
When combined with other tobacco control measures, “cigarette excise tax increases can be even more effective in reducing tobacco-related death and disease,” the report said.
State cigarette taxes range from a high of $3.46 per pack in Rhode Island to 7 cents per pack in South Carolina, the CDC said.
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown urged all states to boost their tobacco taxes.
“Legislators can multiply the positive impact of a tax increase on both public health and their state’s fiscal health by dedicating a portion of the money to implementing tobacco prevention programs that have, in some cases, reduced youth smoking by up to 40 percent,” Brown said in a statement.
A separate report released by the CDC said imposing minimum price laws in states with low cigarette taxes could help control tobacco use and counter discounts offered by cigarette makers.
“Additional laws might be necessary to prohibit all retail price promotions (e.g., coupons or two-for-one offers) that can decrease cigarette retail prices to consumers,” the CDC said in a commentary.
Editing by Vicki Allen