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article imageOp-Ed: No Smoking Day highlights government actions against cigarettes

By Elizabeth Brown     Mar 9, 2016 in Health
March 9 is No Smoking Day in the UK, and the digital world is filling up with advice on how to quit inhaling and exhaling all that nicotine.
It's estimated that a smoker consumes over 6,200 cigarettes each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mark Twain famously said this: "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times."
The growing awareness on the dangers of puffing cigarettes aren't just talking points in social circles—it's prompting governments to take legislative action and protect users' and non-users' lungs. In California, the state legislature is considering raising the legal age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco products, a bill which is expected to pass into law. So why raise the age threshold? Because 95 percent of smokers say they started before the age of 21.
Hollywood celebs have also helped to raise global awareness — especially among the younger crowd — on the dangers of tobacco smoke. Emma Watson, Jessica Alba, Renee Zellweger, and other stars have resisted smoking on-screen even though they were simply portraying characters, according to the ukmedix blog.
Several states are currently weighing the opportunity to increase taxes on cigarettes. But the cost-driven approach to modify consumer behavior is generating healthy skepticism on politicians' true motive. Cynics say that many state governments are looking to increase "sin taxes" not primarily to advance health issues, but rather as a way for elected officials to punish taxpayers who have a perfectly legal, albeit misguided, right to use such substances (the libertarian's argument); and to raise money for more spending on bloated bureaucracies (the fiscal conservative's argument).
The average tax per pack amounts to $1.61 nationally, but highly regulated states like New York ($4.35 per pack, which ranks first in the nation) and Connecticut ($3.65, which ranks third) lead the way in upping the tax bill. Given that there are over 270 billion cigarettes sold in the U.S. annually, financially strapped states are looking at tax increases as a way to alleviate budget shortfalls. For instance, West Virginia is currently contemplating tax-hike measures on cigarette packs. In the state, 27 percent of residents smoke (compared to 18 percent nationally), and last year, West Virginia retailers sold $95 million worth of cigarette products. For a local politician, that's plenty of taxable packs.
When it comes to prudent advice on smoking, the mantra may evolve to "save your health and your cash."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Cigarettes, Nicotine, Health, no smoking day, United Kingdom
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