According to a study published by a team of Harvard researchers, cigarette manufacturers have been adding more and more nicotine to cigarettes. Between 1998 and 2005, the cumulative increase in nicotine yield was 11.3 percent. It is not the first shadowy tactic deployed by the tobacco industry, but the study suggests how far they’re willing to go to satisfy their lust for money.
The cigarette manufacturers are able to increase the amount of nicotine in several ways. One way is to adjust the design of the cigarette filter. By changing the ventilation levels, they can increase the amount of nicotine in each puff. Another way is to put more tobacco in each cigarette, giving smokers more to smoke. They can also change the blend of tobacco in order to produce higher nicotine content in each cigarette.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time cigarette manufacturers have done this. According to the report, the Food and Drug Administration was aware of a similar increase between 1982 and 1991.
These companies have known all along that success was in the cigarette. Or perhaps they just knew that success had to be in the cigarette. The industry has been under attack from all sides. Cigarette taxes were constantly increasing. They had to settle a few lawsuits for killing people. Not to mention that all of their billboards were replaced by anti-smoking billboards. So, like most good entrepreneurs, they found an innovative way to overcome obstacles.
Low-income smokers can’t afford to buy as many cigarettes? Give them more bang for their buck. Younger smokers are more reluctant to start smoking? Make that first hit even more addictive.
Perhaps our politicians were duped, just like the rest of us, into believing that any person with even one ounce of common decency wouldn’t actively try to sell smoking. Everyone knows the statistics. Everyone knows the harmful effects of smoking. But somehow, it is more important to make a lot of money. Perhaps that’s the real addiction we should be trying to curb.
Higher tax on cigarettes may pay bills for now, but it won’t for long
Gov. Minner’s proposal to raise the tax on cigarettes by 45 cents a pack makes sense on two levels.
First, each time the price of cigarettes goes up, the number of smokers goes down. Young people, especially, are price sensitive. Those who have started smoking are more likely to quit when the price goes up. And those who are thinking about starting are more likely to forget about it if the cost is too high.
The second reason it’s a good idea is that the governor wants to use the additional revenue to help pay for the Delaware Healthy Life Fund. The fund will help provide health coverage for uninsured people and expand the Delaware Healthy Children Program. These and related endeavors are not only the right thing to do for people who need help, but they make good economic sense.
Providing insurance coverage to those who need help keep them out of hospital emergency rooms for Smokeless nicotine. And that lowers the costs of medical care for everyone. Also, these programs stress preventative medicine, which in turn, cuts costs for everyone too.
It all sounds great. But there is a catch.
If the cigarette tax is raised even higher, then even more people would quit. But if you raise taxes too high, revenue actually starts to fall. The state has to balance its desire to cut down on the number of smokers with its need for money to pay for worthwhile programs. It’s not a pleasant trade-off.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that raising cigarette taxes as high as New Jersey’s will stop everyone from smoking. But at some point, the revenue will dip too low to be any good to the state.
All of which raises the point that the a cigarette tax is not something the state can count on for long-term revenue. In other words, don’t count on cigarette users to always be there to pay for expansion of the Delaware Healthy Life Fund.
An investment like that will eventually need a steadier source of money.