Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cigarette tax hike should be good for the environment

The federal cigarette tax went up today from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack. If you want to buy your favorite stick in New York City, be prepared to cough up $10 or more.

Here in Connecticut, the price tops $7 a pack. The state may increase the tax a further $1.12 this year. If it does, prices could reach within striking distance of $9.

(Click here (pdf) for a list of state cigarette taxes and rankings, from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.)

Diehard smokers will probably keep puffing, but the wallop to the wallet will cause many to break their habit.

When that happens, the quitters' health and the environment will both benefit.

Cigarette smoke fouls the air, while cigarettes and their butts litter our roads, harm wildlife and threaten property. Any cessation of smoking is welcome news.

Though I wonder whether huge swaths of the smoking population will now stop lighting up. It's possible that the bulk of smokers who were going to quit for economic reasons have already quit, and we're now reaching the point of diminishing returns.

From personal observation at least, it seems there aren't that many smokers left. I think the last time I saw someone actually smoking a cigarette was on a college campus in 2005.

The drop in smoking and its attendant litter may not be as great as we expect.

But to be sure, every little bit helps.

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