Friday, June 6, 2008

Smoking Rates Fall 18% in Indiana

What's their secret?

Addiction is a tough disease, and smoking grabs hold of the addiction-prone with a speed and ferocity that remains impressive even in a world of crack cocaine and ice amphetamine. Zyban may help, and there is the ever-controversial Chantix, as well as a plethora of nicotine replacement products. They are valuable and frequently effective additions to the arsenal of medical approaches to nicotine addiction.

Yet there remains one universally effective--if equally controversial--method of lowering smoking rates in a given population. You can increase the price.

Last year, Indiana boosted state taxes on cigarettes by a whopping 44 cents per pack. The result? Cigarette sales fell in Indiana by almost 18 per cent in the nine months since the new tax was put into effect, according to a June 3 Associated Press report. That percentage represents a decrease in sales of roughly 80 million packs of cigarettes, according to state health experts.

"This is exactly what we predicted, " Dr. Judith Monroe, the state health commissioner, told AP. "We've got to remember that smoking is an addiction... not just a bad habit."

In an editorial, the Indianapolis Star put the matter straightforwardly: "In Indiana and nationally, the research in unequivocal: Taxes reduce smoking, especially among the young. So does serious spending on smoking prevention and cessation. The state used to do the latter, and has paid the price for slacking off."

Indiana currently ranks 6th highest in the nation for smoking prevalence. In 1999, under terms of the state-by-state settlement with the tobacco industry, Indiana used its money entirely for smoking reduction programs. After seeing significant declines in smoking, the state legislature nonetheless diverted the remaining settlement money to other programs in 2003. At which point, according to the Indianapolis Star, "smoking rose again, up to second-highest in the nation," making Indiana "one of the unhealthiest states."

"More than one million Hoosiers use tobacco," Karla Sneegas of Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation told the Associated Press. "But we know from our data that approximately 90 percent of those people want to quit and 30 percent are ready to quit right now."

Photo Credit: SavingAdvice.Com

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