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editorial

Smoking declines — thanks to higher taxes

Smoking is at historic lows in the United States, 18.9 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s about a full percentage point below where it was before the 2009 hike in the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes from 39 cents to $1.01 — a stunning victory for public health and the public purse.

In the 2000s, national smoking rates plateaued at around 20 percent, prompting calls for higher taxes to discourage smokers. Congress approved sharp increases, but they were twice vetoed twice by former President George W. Bush, who believed they would violate his no-new-taxes pledge. But President Obama signed the hike in his first month in office. With cigarettes now costing about $5.75 a pack, a new analysis by USA Today found that there are now 3 million fewer smokers in the United States than in 2009.

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