At a local Kentucky convenience store you can buy a pack of Marlboro cigarettes for about $4.50. For the same price as a cheap lunch a teenager can continue a nicotine addiction for another day. Smokers in Massachusetts, however, can expect to pay over ten dollars for a single pack of smokes. At ten dollars per pack an average smoker in Massachusetts can expect to pay over $3,000 a year. This is one of many reasons why Massachusetts's YRBS rating (a scale to rate the amount of smokers in high schools) is a low 16.0, giving Massachusetts the 10th lowest score out of 43 states rated. Kentucky, however, came in last on the YRBS rankings with a rate of 26.0 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This awful rank of last is proof that the state of Kentucky is not doing enough to prevent and reduce tobacco use among teenagers and young adults. In order to do this, Kentucky must raise the state tax on tobacco products, effectively use revenue from tobacco taxes to fund smoking cessation programs, and improve the quality of anti-smoking advertising campaigns.
Teenagers normally function financially on a very fixed income, commonly working part time for minimum wage. With cigarette prices at $4.50 per pack a high school student can afford to smoke regularly, but when you double that price a student will think twice about the value of cigarettes. With the numerous health risks associated with smoking, buying cigarettes at any price is not a good choice. But if the price were higher a student would be more likely to be smoke free. When examining the aforementioned correlation between cigarette prices and YRBS rate, one can easily come to the conclusion that a solution to prevent tobacco use amongst Kentucky teenagers would be to raise the 60 cent tax on cigarettes to a level that would put cigarette prices out of the question for a young adults with low incomes.
Kentucky spends over 2.6 million dollars a year to fund tobacco cessation programs (Riordan 1). That might seem like quite a bit, but the Center For Disease-Control recommends cessation programs in Kentucky receive 57.8 million per year. Unlike our government, tobacco companies see value in reaching out to our youth. According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, for every 1 million dollars Kentucky spends to keep tobacco products out of children's hands the corporations behind these products spend over 200 million to ensnare them(1). Our economy is pretty rough right now. Our government can hardly afford to keep kids in school, let alone keep them from smoking. Where is all this money supposed to come from? If our government would raise the tax on cigarettes and use more than the current .7% of revenue from cigarette taxes to fund smoking cessation programs Kentucky would position itself as an example to other states struggling with youth smoking problems (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Newborn sunshine chases me as I rumble down highway 127. Its a hot...