Here’s hoping Kentucky shared in the national decrease in teenager smoking habit found recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. USA Today attributes an “historic decline in smoking tobacco,” not just among teenagers but across all age groups, to a 62-cent raise in the federal cig tax in 2009. Increasing the federal tax to $1.01 a package has brought in almost $30 billion in new income to the U.S. revenues. Meantime, some 3 million fewer Americans smoked in 2011 than in 2009, even though the inhabitants has increased. USA Today credits the federal cigarette tax hike with restarting a long-term decrease in smoking habit that had delayed.
Kentucky also raised its cigarette tax in 2009. But instead of the 70 cents proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear, the legislature wimped out and enforced only a 30-cent per package increase.
At 60 cents a package, Kentucky’s cigarette tax remains well below the national average of $1.49 and is lower than four of our seven surrounding states.
That’s a big part of why Kentucky nearly always leads the nation in percent of smokers, both adults and teens, and why pregnant Kentuckians smoke at double the national rate.
Smoking rate takes a very serious cause on Kentucky’s health and state economy. Almost all smokers start smoking habit by age 18, and teenagers are especially sensitive to increases in the cigarettes prices.