The laws of economics tell us that if you raise the price on a product, you decrease demand, and that this effect is particularly pronounced on people who haven’t tried the product yet, and who don’t have a lot of money.
Experience tell us that if you apply this principle to teen smoking, you will save countless children from trying that first cigarette, and save them a lifetime of addiction, and tremendous financial cost to the rest of us.
Yet it took years and years and years for our Legislature to agree to embrace this proven method of deterring (illegal) youth smoking, because it involved raising a tax, and therefore lots of legislators claimed that the truth about its effect was not true.
But finally lawmakers did raise South Carolina’s bottom-dragging cigarette tax in 2010, from the last-in-the-nation 7 cents a pack to the nearly last 57 cents. And a new report from the S.C. Tobacco Collaborative shows the effect is … precisely what everybody knew it would be.
As the collaborative reports:
Key findings include the following changes since 2007:
A 19 percent decrease in the high school smoking rate (from 19.1 to 15.4 percent);
An 8 percent decrease in the state adult smoking rate (from 19.2 to 17.7 percent);
A 47 percent decrease in the middle school smoking rate (from 9 to 4.8 percent); and
A 32 percent decrease in per capita cigarette pack sales (from 96.4 to 61.9 packs per capita).
The collaborative cites other causes for the decline as well — chiefly more counties, cities, colleges and school districts adopting the smoke-free provisions that the Legislature refuses to adopt — and lays out additional steps we can and should and probably won’t take to reduce teen smoking even more.
The report offers a chance to say “We told you so,” to celebrate young lives improved and saved and future tax dollars saved and to focus on that statewide smoke-free law our Legislature still needs to adopt. You can read the full report here.