A new Gallup survey found that 58 percent of smokers in the United States see increased state and federal taxes on cigarettes as an act of unjust discrimination, while 39 percent believe the tax hikes are justified.
The latest Gallup 2014 Consumption Habits survey shows that smokers are slightly less likely to feel discriminated against than in 2002, when 68 percent felt the tax increases were not justified versus 29 percent who felt they were.
One reason state and municipal governments have increased levies on cigarettes in recent years is that many public health advocates believe cigarette taxes can reduce smoking. For example, the median state cigarette tax is $1.36 per pack, and the federal government tacks on another $1.01, according to the survey.
In New York City, for example, the combined city and state tax is as high as $5.85, which is often higher than the cost of a pack of cigarettes. Last November, the Chicago City Council approved a 50-cent per-pack tax hike as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2014 budget. In combination with state and local taxes, the city tax increase pushes the total taxes on cigarettes sold in Chicago to $7.17 a pack, which makes it the highest cigarette tax in the nation.
But according to the survey, the large majority of smokers (71 percent) do not believe they personally smoke less because of the cigarette tax increases. However, about one-fourth (26 percent) of those surveyed admit that the higher levies discourage them from lighting up – a finding that policy advocates might see as a success.
Gallup researchers noted that independent studies on the effectiveness of tax increases for reducing smoking is mixed. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research says, “It will take sizable tax increases, on the order of 100 percent, to decrease adult smoking by as much as 5 percent.” Still, other researchers conclude that higher cigarette prices do reduce smoking rates among certain subgroups, such as the young.
About the survey:
Results of this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted from July 7-10, 2014, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.