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Elliot Wineburg MD Headshot

Cigarette Tax Goes Up, But Will Smokers Quit?

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With the proposed increased tax, a pack of cigarettes in New York City will be as high as $12.00. For the pack a day smoker, the monthly cost of 336.00 could be adversely life changing. Yet I believe that most adults, even those in financial distress will continue to support their habit. Some companies will not hire smokers and will fire anyone who does smoke because of the additional costs to their health care. In this economy, jobs are hard to come by yet I believe most smokers will risk their jobs to keep smoking.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, over $96 billion is spent on public and private health care combined and each American household spends $630 a year in federal and state taxes due to smoking.

The FDA will not make smoking illegal until the continuous contributions by the multi-billion dollar tobacco corporations are prohibited from sponsoring the many senators and representatives. Money talks and health does not! The nearly useless actions by the FDA do not affect the ongoing addictive response by the determined smokers. They will continue to buy the new colored packs without the words.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance -- in the same category as opiate drugs such as codeine and heroin. Smokers are not free to give up their pernicious habit. For that reason, the additional expense is unlikely to deter anyone from continuing his or her reliance on cigarettes. Making cigarettes difficult to obtain or changing the color of the packs -- which is followed by many manufacturers since the federal government has forbidden the use of terms as "mild" or "moderate" -- will not help people stop smoking.

The necessary attention to full-blown treatments for these nicotine addicts is ignored. The one-on-one medical treatment approach is the effective way to reduce the number of hundreds of thousand needless deaths annually from smoking. Asking smokers to regulate their nicotine intake on their own with the use of a patch or gum is ineffective. They need a medical assessment of their nicotine intake and the psychology behind their habit.

If the FDA spent more time and money on effective, medical techniques for smoking cessation, it would certainly benefit the smoker and there would more money for quality health care across the board. Additionally, it would relieve some of the tax burden for non-smokers.

It would be interesting to know exactly where the money from a cigarette tax increase actually goes.

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