Vote Yes on Prop B to Save Lives, Reduce Health Care Costs; Tobacco Tax Increase; Paying More for Cigarettes Will Reduce Rates of Teen Smoking; OTHER VIEWS

By Trevathan, Dr Edwin | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 31, 2012 | Go to article overview

Vote Yes on Prop B to Save Lives, Reduce Health Care Costs; Tobacco Tax Increase; Paying More for Cigarettes Will Reduce Rates of Teen Smoking; OTHER VIEWS


Trevathan, Dr Edwin, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


In an era when almost every issue related to our health has been politicized, we sometimes fail to recognize opportunities to improve health in a bipartisan manner. This is the case for Missouri voters on Tuesday, when we have the opportunity to vote yes on Proposition B. Proposition B will increase the sales tax from the lowest in the U.S., 17 cents per pack, to 90 cents per pack. A yes vote on Proposition B can help save lives by the thousands, while reducing health care costs.

Cigarettes are sophisticated nicotine delivery devices, designed to efficiently deliver nicotine into the blood via the lungs, where it is rapidly taken to the brain to produce dependence and then addiction. Producing addiction to nicotine in the victim so that he will continue to buy the product is the intent of the cigarette design. Once addicted, in spite of understanding that these nicotine delivery devices increase their risk of suffering and death, cigarette smokers usually continue to smoke unless presented with barriers to smoking, and help with smoking cessation. Ask anyone who has been addicted to cigarette smoking; it is very difficult to quit.

Cigarette companies, and those who sell cigarettes, know that teenagers are especially vulnerable to pressures to smoke. If teenagers become addicted to cigarettes, cigarette companies often have customers for life. Establishing barriers, such as higher cigarette sales taxes, reduce the rates of teen smoking. High cigarette taxes have been proven to provide initial incentives that push more adults to seek medical care to stop smoking and enroll in smoking cessation programs.

If Proposition B passes, the best data suggest that we will experience an almost 12 percent reduction in teen smoking and prevent more than 40,000 Missouri youths from starting to smoke. More than 30,000 adult smokers in Missouri will likely quit smoking, and more than 20,000 premature deaths from smoking-caused diseases will be prevented over a very few years. More than 8,000 smoking- exposed pregnancies will be prevented. Furthermore, those of us who do not smoke will have less exposure to passive smoking, further reducing the risk of smoking-related diseases. …

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