Bad news for anti-smoking zealots

The anti-smoking wowsers want to end smoking and one of their tools suggested is massive tax increases…problem is it won’t work.

“IF IT were totally up to me, I would raise the cigarette tax so high the revenues from it would go to zero,” thundered Michael Bloomberg back in 2002. New York city’s combative mayor has since raised cigarette taxes several times. The effect has been limited, so he wants to try something new. He recently proposed to outlaw discounting cigarettes and displaying them openly in stores.

Whether these measures will be approved—and help—remains to be seen. But Mr Bloomberg may well be right to push for more bans. A new paper by Abel Brodeur of the Paris School of Economics, based on extensive surveys in America, suggests that bans on smoking are not just effective but actually make smokers happier. By not allowing them to light up in restaurants and bars (as New York already does), governments give weaker-willed individuals an excuse to do what they otherwise cannot: stop smoking. As an additional benefit, bans also seem to make spouses of smokers happier. 

Bans don’t work, what about taxes?

A second paper provides ammunition to those sceptical of higher cigarette taxes as a way of discouraging smoking. John Cawley of Cornell University and Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder of York University looked at how sensitive young American smokers are to higher cigarette prices. Not very, it turns out. That is because a big share—46% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys—do not smoke for pleasure, but to stay thin or lose weight.

That may not be healthy, but it is rational: cigarettes appear to suppress the appetite and increase the metabolic rate. At any rate a desire to lose weight makes young smokers much less sensitive to price changes: other ways of shedding pounds, such as eating less or exercising more, are less appealing. What is more, few teenagers spend a lot of money on cigarettes. A 2003 study by researchers from the University of Minnesota found that only 16% of teenage smokers had bought their last fags themselves.

 


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  • Steve (North Shore)

    Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Smokers already pay a shitload in tax and duty, so if they stop smoking I will have to make the shortfall in revenue gathering. Yes, I am an ex smoker (45 years I paid)

  • I think eliminating cigarette smoking is a good idea and the sooner it happens – the better.

  • Jman

    Cam you’ve made another reading comprehension mistake here. Read this paragraph again. It’s saying bans DO work.

    “Whether these measures will be approved—and help—remains to be seen. But
    Mr Bloomberg may well be right to push for more bans. A new paper by
    Abel Brodeur of the Paris School of Economics, based on extensive
    surveys in America, suggests that bans on smoking are not just effective
    but actually make smokers happier. By not allowing them to light up in
    restaurants and bars (as New York already does), governments give
    weaker-willed individuals an excuse to do what they otherwise cannot:
    stop smoking. As an additional benefit, bans also seem to make spouses
    of smokers happier. “

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