New Reports: Strong State Tobacco Control Policies Could Save Hundreds of Thousands of Lives and Billions of Dollars in Health Care Costs

Tobacco Control in the States

During the past 10 years, 47 states and the District of Columbia have raised their cigarette taxes in more than 100 separate instances. The current average state tobacco tax is $1.45, with 21 states still having taxes at less than $1.00 per pack. New York has the highest cigarette tax at $4.35 per pack and Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax at 17 cents per pack. No state comes close to matching the health and economic costs attributed to smoking, which are estimated at $10.28 per pack.

Tobacco industry

Tobacco industry

Currently 23 states and the District of Columbia have a comprehensive smoke-free law in place that covers all types of workplaces, bars and restaurants. Keeping all workplaces, restaurants and bars in a state 100 percent smoke-free is the best way to protect all residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Many states still need to close loopholes that allow for smoking in ventilated areas, casinos, bingo parlors, hookah bars, or cigar bars, at certain times of day in some venues, or for certain events. These exemptions weaken the laws and do not adequately protect the public. It is also critical for states that currently have strong laws in place to work to protect them and not allow any new exemptions that may put the public, especially service and hospitality workers, at risk for increased exposure to secondhand smoke.

Forty-five years after the Surgeon General’s report first found that tobacco smoke was a health hazard, the use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing approximately 443,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in direct health care costs each year.

The findings in the reports are based on standard assumptions about how tobacco users react to changes in tobacco prices and laws around tobacco use, how these policies reduce the number of youth who become regular smokers, and the most recent health data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the percentage of smokers who would be expected to die prematurely from smoking. In estimating the cost savings, the reports use the latest studies and data on the costs of smoking-related disease and the savings to states without the burden of treating lung cancers, heart attacks and strokes related to smoking.

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