Cigarettes are in the news again. A Federal judge just imposed strict new limits on tobacco advertising – no more “low tar” cigarettes – and Michael Bloomberg announced that he has set up a new foundation dedicated to starting a global anti-smoking campaign.
Personally, I think the solution is simple: raise the cigarette tax. If you want to decrease the numbers of smokers, that’s the only proven solution. The distant threat of lung cancer can’t compete with the Marlborough man. A hefty surcharge, however, can. In fact, a 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes causes a 4 percent reduction in demand. Teenagers are especially sensitive to these price changes: a 10 percent increase in price causes a 12 percent drop in teenage smoking. (The only bad news is that raising the price of cigarettes tends to increase the demand for marijuana. Apparently, the two products are in competition. I wonder what Altria thinks of that.)