In a recent article published in The Atlantic, Dr. James Hamblin cited a new study that showed some adults (ages 21-29 and older than 65) drink more alcohol when the state increases cigarette taxes. Calling attention to state taxation policies, Hamblin suggests that these policies need to be mindful that higher prices can cause binge drinking in certain adults. That may be the case with some adults, but what about our children?
Nearly 4,000 U.S. children will smoke their first cigarette today. Symptoms of nicotine addiction often occur just weeks and sometimes days after kids experiment with smoking. The addiction rate for smoking is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine.
Studies have repeatedly shown that increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use among youth. Every 10 percent increase in cigarette prices reduces smoking among youth by about 7 percent and total cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.
But higher cigarette taxes are not enough. Both Hamblin and the study he cites don’t consider that increased taxes are only one part of a complex tobacco control strategy that includes hard-hitting media campaigns, bold health policies, and educational programs. And it works.
Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death. Nearly 90 percent of all adult smokers first become regular smokers before the age of 19. Higher cigarette taxes save our kids’ lives and that shouldn’t drive anyone to drink.