219173 Tobacco taxes and their impact on populations of low socioeconomic status

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Janet Porter, MPH , Break Free Alliance Program Director, Health Education Council, West Sacramento, CA
Bruce Adkins, MS, PA , Division of Tobacco Prevention, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, Charleston, WV
Robert H. Anderson, MA, CHES , Prevention Research Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Large disparities in smoking prevalence continue to exist by race/ethnicity and education level. Americans living in poverty suffer disproportionately from tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. There is clear evidence that one of the most effective tools to reduce smoking in the general population has been tobacco taxes. The evidence is less clear as to whether tobacco taxes result in significant reductions in smoking among the poor. Break Free Alliance, one of six national networks funded by CDC, Office on Smoking and Health, reviewed the literature as it pertains to tobacco tax increases, tobacco use prevalence, and regressivity and compared it with focus group findings from discussions with low income smokers.

It was observed that smoking behavior does not significantly change in response to price increases. Most participants reported they simply switch to less expensive brands, purchase from non-traditional suppliers, or roll their own cigarettes. For the poor communities we serve, this creates a dilemma: Does the benefit to those that respond to price increases outweigh the cost to those that continue to smoke? Maybe. Based on documented high prevalence rates of poor smokers, states should make the greatest possible efforts to motivate and assist smokers to quit. Diverting tobacco tax revenues into non-tobacco related programs may eventually yield higher smoking rates and future increases in related health care costs. There is a rational case for dedicating a share of the tax revenue to funding campaigns that specifically target poor smokers. Specific interventions and recommendations will be shared.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Program planning
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify specific strategies for funneling tobacco tax revenues directly into cessation programming for populations of low socioeconomic status. 2. Describe the impact of tobacco taxes on populations of low socioeconomic status.

Keywords: Low-Income, Tobacco Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I direct a national network program focused on developing strategies and recommendations to reduce tobacco use among the poor.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.