Poll: A quarter of smokers say they’ll curb their smoking with higher cigarette taxes

     (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    As Harrisburg ponders a $2-per-pack smoking tax in Philadelphia to help fund the city’s schools, new national data give us insights from smokers’ perspectives on higher taxes on cigarettes.

    We assess public perceptions with Frank Newport, editor in chief at the Gallup Poll.

    A key question, based on smokers’ self-reports: Do they report that the higher taxes actually would cause them to smoke less? It turns out there’s less of a relationship than people may think. While it looks like higher taxes on cigarettes might have some impact on dercreasing the rate of smoking, when we asked smokers directly,  only 26 percent said that they would smoke less.

    Although the majority of smokers would like to quite, a third now say they would not. This is higher than usual.

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    And who smokes in the U.S. today, anyway? Some of the most important distinguishing demographic and social indicators that predict smoking include race and ethnic origin, age, income and education, and religion. The biggest predictor is education, said Newport. The higher the level of schooling completed, the less likely an American is to smoke. 

    On to another vice — if the seemingly endless news about strife overseas, divisiveness in the nation, and life’s daily stresses has you reaching for the bottle, we ask how many Americans actually drink alcohol. About 64 percent say they drink, with about one-thiurd of them saying it;s only for special occsions. Meanwhile, 36 percent of Americans say they are total abstainers.

    And, what is the favorite beverage of choice among drinkers — beer, wine or hard liquor? Among young people  it has been beer, but that is showing some signs of shifting to liquor.

    Spoeaking of drinking age, July 17 marked the 30th anniversary of the National Minimum Age Drinking Act, which effectively raised the drinking age across the country to 21. A number of experts claim we would be better off if the drinking age were dropped to 18, or even lower! Do Americans really want to do that? You might be surprised by the results Gallupo found.

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