Would Raising Cigarette Taxes Convince Smokers to Quit?

Tobacco kills 5 million people across the world annually, in addition to lowering smokers’ life spans by about six to 10 years.  While cigarettes’ negative effects are widely known, alarming statistics like these have not been sufficient in convincing people to quit the habit. For that reason, public health officials routinely consider hitting smokers where it really counts: their wallets. A new study finds that increasing taxes on cigarettes may influence some to stop smoking.

In the past, similar studies have been conducted in the United States and found that taxes do not have a serious impact on American smokers. However, the amount the tax has increased is hardly significant. Therefore, researchers decided to look at Canada where cigarette taxes have increased more dramatically at certain points. Indeed, the years during which the tax was at its highest rate are the years during which the highest percentage of people quit smoking.

The people who were most likely to quit were people with lower incomes. As might be expected, those who earned the most were not deterred by a tax increase and continued smoking. Additionally, smokers between the ages of 25- and 44-years-old of all incomes continued to purchase cigarettes despite a tax hike.

In short, it seems that while increasing taxes could convince a decent number of people to drop the habit, other measures will need to be taken to more drastically reduce the number of smokers.

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