Let’s face it – the weather recently has certainly been a detriment to spending time outside. That is why it struck me just how addictive cigarettes are. As I looked out the window during the polar vortex with wind chills at -20 degrees, I saw a thin elderly woman standing alone in the freezing wind, smoking her cigarette.
I don’t know that there are big public health measures that can make a difference for this woman. As with most adults, she probably began smoking as a teenager and has been addicted most of her life. However, there are continuing efforts to help prevent youth from starting to smoke.
A recent study showed that a person who began smoking in early adulthood but stopped before 40 years of age avoided more than 90 percent of the excess risks during their next decades of life (United Kingdom Million Women Study).
But we all know the easiest way to stop smoking is to prevent it in the first place.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer review of more than 100 econometric studies confirmed that tobacco taxes and consumption are strongly inversely related. Price goes up and smoking goes down. They calculated that, for every 1 percent price change, there would be a reduction of about 0.4 percent in smoking. Teens are particularly price sensitive. Smokers become less sensitive to price as their addiction progresses.
Missouri continues to have the special distinction of having the lowest tobacco tax in the nation at 17 cents per pack. The average tax per pack in the U.S. is $1.53, with the range of $0.17 to $4.35 per pack.
In the interest of public health and our investment in the future of our children, Missouri will have to continue to reexamine its prevention policies and efforts and match those with what we are willing to teach and to spend on our children, so one day, as adults, they are not forced to stand outside in the freezing wind smoking a cigarette, slave to a harmful addiction.