Fox News has carried a report on the possibility of tobacco tax increases in the US. These would be aimed at hitting young smokers. In reality of course any tax hikes will hit smokers of all ages. As a person who smoked heavily for 20 years, gave up and has now been a non smoker for more than 20 years here is my opinion for what it is worth.
I began smoking from a young age. As to why I am not really sure. Cigarettes may have been cheaper then but as incomes were low they still in real terms cost a small fortune. Initially peer pressure played a part plus a desire to be thin. Well I was young. Rebellion would have been in there too.
Once hooked it is not easy giving up. These days it perhaps is a little easier. In the UK for example free advice and stop smoking products are available on the NHS from local pharmacies. If you need one of the more modern treatments, such as Champix, this is available for your Doctor for the price of a prescription. The NHS has, rightly in my opinion, decided that it is cheaper to help people stop smoking than pick up the pieces in later years.
Of course it would be easier if people did not become smokers in the first place.
In the UK smokers pay a hefty tax price for smoking. UK tobacco products are taxed to the hilt. Travel to Europe and you can purchase the same products for a much cheaper price. However much as people who smoke complain about the high level of tax in the UK it does not prevent people becoming smokers. Many then continue to do so throughout their lives.
Remember too that in the UK their is a ban on smoking related advertising, all products carry health warnings and a ban on smoking in various places exists. This means that you cannot smoke at your place of work, on a bus, in a pub, in a shop and more.
But Back to the USA. According to Fox News, "The report showed nearly one in five high school-aged teens smokes. That's down from earlier decades, but the rate of decline has slowed" Fox said that a report from the US Surgeon's office, "Called for an end to the "tobacco epidemic," the report suggested everything from mass media campaigns to new restrictions to tobacco tax hikes in an effort to once again start cutting down on youth tobacco use. The evidence shows that increasing tobacco prices is effective at lowering smoking prevalence as well as consumption levels of tobacco products, especially by youth and young adults."
Whilst all of this sounds good on paper will it hit home? Well of course any action on reducing smoking has to be good news. However when I smoked, many years ago, and money was tight, I always managed to buy my cigarettes. When times got tight hand rolling tobacco was a cheaper option. Giving up was not on my radar when I was young. When it did come it was not brought about by cost. Health issues were my prime reason.
Money of course could be the main reason you might want to stop smoking. In reality the habit is like setting fire to one bank note after another. Not everyone can see this though.
In the UK in spite of various governments best efforts many people still smoke and that includes young people. Cancer Research UK carries information and statistics.
We now regularly see hospital patients, attached to IV drips, making their way to the boundary of hospitals to get their daily tobacco fix. Come hell or high water they will smoke. Fact. For these people giving up will probably never be an option.
Tax hikes could have an impact in the US. That remains to be seen. However do not count on it. Education must be the best way forward, added to parental guidance. Sadly the latter is where some will fall down.
It may be worth adding that as President Obama plans his 2012 election campaign he will be struggling to balance the books. How to increase revenue without alienating any section of society, such as the middle classes. Has he decided to follow the UK's lead and huit the smokers? Could be. This is common practice and has been for years in the UK. Will it cut down on young smokers? Only time will tell.
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog