Smokers Bristle Over Cigarette Taxes

by Lydia Saad

But generally tolerant of restrictions on smoking in public

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Calling it "the most important measure my administration may take to save people's lives," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently championed a hefty cigarette tax increase, driving cigarette prices in his city to twice the national average. And it's not just New York that is boosting the tax burden on smokers. USA Today reports that so far this year, 15 states have approved cigarette tax increases. Now, with smoking already forbidden in New York offices, public buildings and most restaurants, Bloomberg announced his intention to ban it in one of the last bastions of public accommodation of smokers: bars.

With government taxes and regulations tightening around smokers, are they angry, have they been driven to the decision to quit, or are they more resolved than ever to continue their habit?

Major Conclusions

Over the last decade, smokers have generally seemed tolerant of increased restrictions on smoking in public places. Gallup's most recent survey on smoking, conducted July 9-11, 2002, found only 39% of smokers feeling "unjustly discriminated against" by these regulations; 58% said the restrictions are justified. These attitudes have not changed since 1994. By contrast, a majority of smokers express resentment about rising cigarette taxes: Two-thirds (68%) say they feel unjustly discriminated against by the increase in taxes, while just 29% believe the increases are justified.

Between one-quarter and one-third of smokers tell Gallup that these measures are causing them to smoke less. The indication that government efforts may have a modest impact on smoking is also seen in the prevalence of adult smoking, which has declined slightly over the past decade and a half.

Among current smokers, it appears that government policies are having only a limited impact on the amount people smoke. From 1999-2000 the number of cigarettes individuals smoked per week seemed to be declining, but that was reversed this year. The percentage of smokers who would like to quit is only slightly higher today than it has been in the past.

Two types of reasons are generally given for raising taxes on cigarettes: one is to discourage smoking and the other to provide the government with money to offset the healthcare costs associated with smoking. Smokers oppose tax increases on cigarettes for either reason, although they are more amenable to the cost argument than the health one. Non-smokers widely support raising cigarette taxes for either reason.

Details

  • Two-thirds of smokers feel unjustly discriminated against by increased cigarette taxes, compared with only 39% who feel unjustly discriminated against by restrictions on smoking in public places.
Smokers' Reaction to Anti-Smoking Policies
July 9-11, 2002
  • Twenty-eight percent of smokers say they are smoking less because of the restrictions on smoking in public places; 27% are smoking less because of cigarette tax increases.
  • Restrictions on smoking in the workplace seem to have a particularly strong impact on smokers' behavior, as 31% of employed smokers, compared with only 22% of non-employed smokers, say they smoke less because of smoking restrictions in public. By contrast, cigarette taxes have about the same impact on employed and non-employed smokers.
  • Between 1986 and 1989, an average of 30% of Americans told Gallup that they had smoked any cigarettes within the past week. That fell to 27% in the mid-1990s and has averaged 26% since 2000. In Gallup's July 2002 survey, the figure is only 24%. However, given the margin of error for this measure, it is too soon to say whether smoking has indeed dropped below the 25% mark.
Prevalence of Cigarette Smoking
Among National Adults
  • The percentage of smokers who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes per day is much lower today than in 1977 when Gallup first measured smoking rates. However, after a particularly sharp decline in heavy smoking between 1999 and 2001, the 2002 Gallup survey on smoking showed the number increasing again (from an average of 10% of smokers up to 17% of smokers).
Smoke More Than One Pack a Day
  • About eight in 10 smokers (79%) say they would like to give up smoking. This is similar to the average of 78% found in the past five years, but is slightly higher than the 66% who wanted to quit roughly 20 years ago, and the 75% who felt this way in the early 1990s.
  • A slight majority of Americans (55%) support raising taxes on cigarettes to help state and local governments pay for the health costs of smoking; 39% think they should not be raised for this purpose. By contrast, the public is about evenly divided (46% in favor; 50% opposed) over the issue of raising taxes in order to discourage smoking.
  • Self-interest appears to play an important role in the formation of attitudes toward cigarette taxation policy. Smokers widely oppose raising taxes on cigarettes, whether purportedly for their own good (83% are opposed) or as financial compensation to government for smoking-related health costs (70% are opposed). A majority of non-smokers favor both proposals; 58% favor taxes aimed at discouraging smoking; 62% favor it to recoup health costs.
  • Although smokers seem generally tolerant of restrictions on smoking in public, with most saying these restrictions are justified, a Gallup trend last updated in 2001 shows that smokers generally support restricted areas for smoking in public places such as restaurants, workplaces and hotels, while non-smokers are much more likely to favor total bans in these locations.

 

Smoking in Restaurants, 2001

Smokers

Non-smokers

%

%

Ban

22

53

Set aside

69

45

No restrictions

8

2



 

Smoking in Workplaces, 2001

Smokers

Non-smokers

%

%

Ban

17

46

Set aside

76

51

No restrictions

5

2



 

Smoking in Hotels/Motels, 2001

Smokers

Non-smokers

%

%

Ban

10

34

Set aside

77

61

No restrictions

12

4



Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 9-11, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Have you, yourself, smoked any cigarettes in the past week?

 

 

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

2002 Jul 9-11

24

76

1989 Apr 4-9

29

71

1988 Jul 1-7

32

68

2001 Jul 19-22

28

72

1987 Mar 14-18

30

70

2000 Nov 13-15

25

75

1986 Jun 9-16

31

69

1999 Sep 23-26

23

77

1985 Jun 7-10

35

65

1998 Jun 22-23

28

72

1983

38

62

1997 Sep 25-28

26

74

1981 Jun 26-29

35

65

1997 Jun 26-29

26

74

1978 Jan 20-23

36

64

1997 Jun 23-24

26

74

1977 Aug 19-22

38

62

1997 May 6-7

25

75

1974 May 10-13

40

60

1997 Mar 24-26

27

73

1972 Apr 21-24

43

57

1996 May 9-12

27

73

1971 May 14-17

42

58

1994 Jul 15-17

27

73

1969 Jul 24-29

40

60

1994 Mar 11-13

27

73

1957

42

58

1991 Nov 7-10

28

72

1954

45

55

1990 Jul 6-8

27

73

1949

44

56

1989 May 15-18

27

73

1944

41

59



 

 

About how many cigarettes do you smoke each day?

 

BASED ON --213-- SMOKERS

 

 

Less than
one pack

One
pack

More than one pack

No
answer

 

Mean

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Jul 9-11

54

29

17

*

16

2001 Jul 19-22

59

29

11

*

15

2000 Nov 13-15

62

29

9

0

15

1999 Sep 23-26

55

35

9

1

14

1997 Jun 26-29

48

32

19

1

--

1997 Jun 23-24

48

30

21

1

--

1996 May 9-12

43

38

16

3

--

1994 Mar 11-13

44

38

18

0

--

1991 Nov 7-10

48

34

17

1

--

1990 Jul 6-8

51

32

14

3

--

1989 May 15-18

39

39

20

2

--

1988 Jul 1-7

40

38

20

2

--

1987 Mar 14-18

48

32

18

2

--

1986 Jun 9-16

43

33

22

2

--

1981 Jan 26-29

38

37

24

1

--

1977 Aug 19-22

41

31

27

1

--



 

 

All things considered, would you like to give up smoking, or not?

 

BASED ON --213-- SMOKERS

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

%

%

%

2002 Jul 9-11

79

18

3

2000 Nov 13-15

82

16

2

1999 Sep 23-26

76

23

1

1997 Jun 26-29

74

24

2

1997 Jun 23-24

64

34

2

1996 May 9-12

73

26

1

1994 Mar 11-13

70

28

2

1991 Nov 7-10

76

22

2

1990 Jul 6-8

74

24

2

1989 May 15-18

63

33

4

1988 Jul 1-7

68

27

5

1987 Mar 14-18

77

20

3

1986 Jun 9-16

75

22

3

1981 Jun 26-29

66

30

4

1977 Aug 19-22

66

29

5



As a result of increased restrictions on smoking in public places, do you feel unjustly discriminated against as a smoker, or do you think the restrictions are justified?

BASED ON --213-- SMOKERS

 

 

Yes, unjustly discriminated against

No, restrictions
are justified

No
opinion

%

%

%

2002 Jul 9-11

39

58

3

2001 Jul 19-22

32

65

3

1994 Mar 11-13

39

60

1



Would you say you, personally, are smoking less because of these restrictions, or not?

BASED ON --213-- SMOKERS

 

 

Yes, smoking less

No, not smoking less

No opinion

%

%

%

2002 Jul 9-11

28

71

1

1994 Mar 11-13

30

70

0



As a result of increased taxes on cigarettes, do you feel unjustly discriminated against as a smoker, or do you think these tax increases are justified?

BASED ON --213-- SMOKERS

 

 

Yes, unjustly discriminated against

No, restrictions
are justified

No
opinion

2002 Jul 9-11

68%

29%

3%



Would you say you, personally, are smoking less because of these tax increases, or not?

BASED ON --213-- SMOKERS

 

 

Yes, smoking less

No, not smoking less

No opinion

2002 Jul 9-11

27%

71%

2%



Did you, yourself, ever smoke cigarettes on a regular basis?

BASED ON --791-- NON-SMOKERS

 

 

Yes

No

No answer

2002 Jul 9-11

34%

66%

*



Do you consider the amount of taxes on a pack of cigarettes as -- [ROTATED: too high, about right, or too low]?

 

Too high

About right

Too low

No opinion

2002 Jul 9-11

40%

27%

26%

7%



Which of the following statements concerning new tax increases on cigarettes do you agree with more -- [ROTATED: cigarette taxes should be raised by substantial amounts in order to discourage smoking (or) cigarette taxes should not be raised by substantial amounts because doing so would unfairly discriminate against smokers]?

BASED ON --508-- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 


Raised


Not raised

Other
(vol.)

Depends (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Jul 9-11

46%

50%

1%

1%

2%



Which of the following statements concerning new tax increases on cigarettes do you agree with more -- [rotatED: cigarette taxes should be raised by substantial amounts in order to help state and local governments pay for the health costs related to smoking (or) cigarette taxes should not be raised by substantial amounts because doing so would unfairly discriminate against smokers]?

BASED ON --496-- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 


Raised


Not raised

Other
(vol.)

Depends (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Jul 9-11

55%

39%

2%

1%

3%



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