Big Tobacco's Big Ally: Inflation

Categories: Government, Health
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Bucking the trend...
Regarding the recent California Adult Smoking Prevalence survey, Stanton Glantz isn't sure whether to take a pack half full or pack half empty approach.

The director of U.C. San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control and Research is, naturally, pleased that the state's smoking rate is at its lowest-ever recorded level of just 13.1 percent. But he says it could be lower still -- if not for economic inflation. Quite simply, a nickel doesn't buy what it did 22 years ago.

Back in 1988, the state mandated that five cents from the tobacco tax would go to the government's own anti-tobacco campaign. That level hasn't been raised since. "The five cents you had in 1988 is worth about two cents today," bemoans Glantz. "The California Tobacco Control Program is a shadow of what it used to be. The campaign doesn't have the volume it used to have."

That being said, smoking totals are still down. And while first-day media reports naturally focused on the state's overall percentage of smokers, Glantz says that's not as significant as how much people are smoking. Per the data, not only are there fewer smokers, smokers are smoking less. Some 28.1 percent of respondents said they're non-daily smokers and 35.4 percent claimed to smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes per day.

"People used to think there was this hard core of smokers and no matter what you did, they'd keep smoking. That turned out to not be true," says Glantz. "If you had a hard core, you'd find that, as smoking preference went down, per-capita, it'd go up. But what they found is that as smoking continued to go down, the amount people smoked went down, too. And the less you smoke, the easier it is to quit."

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