A recent study by Vanderbilt University and University of Michigan suggests that higher taxes and prices for cigarettes not only provides health benefits to those who are currently smoking or considering smoking, but it is also strongly associated with lower infant mortality rates in the United States. Researchers found that for every $1 tax increase per pack of cigarettes, about two infant deaths were averted each day. According to the study, there was an estimated 3.2 percent decrease in annual infant mortality rates, or 750 fewer infant deaths per year associated with the tax increase.
“Exposure to cigarettes during pregnancy is associated with numerous health problems for newborns, including preterm birth which is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Taxing cigarettes is known to help convince people to quit smoking, or not to start. This study helps physicians, public health officials, and policymakers understand just how much benefit cigarettes tax increases can have on infant health,” said lead author Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy in the Division of Neonatology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
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Cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States claiming approximately 480,000 lives prematurely every year. Smoking not only takes the lives of those who use tobacco, but, as the study suggests, also those who are exposed to secondhand smoke. The bottom line is that no tobacco product is safe to use.
The American Heart Association advocates for significant increases in tobacco excise taxes at the state, county or municipal levels that cover all tobacco products. We also support allocation of at least some of these revenues generated toward tobacco control, prevention, and cessation programs, as well as other health-related initiatives such as improving access to health care.
We believe that tobacco taxes are a heath win that reduces tobacco use, saves lives, raises revenue for cash-strapped states, and lowers health care costs. These taxes are a political win because they are popular with voters.