The $1 increase per pack in the state cigarette tax last year achieved the best of all possible worlds: a larger than expected increase in revenue combined with fewer smokers. According to the state Office of Policy and Management, the tax increase, which went into effect last October, was expected to generate an extra $99.3 million for the state during the last fiscal year.
Instead, the state collected $5 million more than predicted.
At the same time, the state estimates that 7 million fewer packs of cigarettes were sold than would have been purchased without the tax increase.
An April 2009 increase in the federal cigarette tax from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack also had an impact on sales.
Cigarette smoking has become a very expensive, not to mention life-threatening, habit.
The combination of cigarettes’ high cost and their health risks has produced a considerable drop in sales from 2006, when 177.2 million packs were sold, to this fiscal year, which ended June 30, when 141.7 million packs were sold.
Despite all the good reasons to quit smoking, about 17 percent of the state’s residents are addicted to cigarettes.
The cigarette tax takes advantage of that addiction with its assumption that many people are willing to pay a higher price to keep smoking.
If those smokers ever kick their habit, the state will have to end its own dependency on the tax revenue, which was some $380 million last year.
While that day still seems far off, public health advocates can be pleased with the decline, although not large enough, in the number of state smokers.
Editorial courtesy of The New Haven Register, a Journal Register Co. newspaper.