Poll: majority in favor of tobacco tax raise for public health improvement

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at the West Virginia Prevention Research Center (WVPRC), housed inside the West Virginia University School of Public Health, found a majority of West Virginians support an increase in taxes on tobacco products if the funds raised by the tax were used towards improving public health.  

West Virginia adults participating in the 2014 Adult Tobacco Survey (WVATS) were asked if they would be in favor of an increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes if the money were used to improve public health.  They were also asked about their support for an increase in the tax on smokeless tobacco products.

Sixty-seven percent support a cigarette tax increase. Those who support a cigarette tax increase were asked how high the increase should be; 55 percent support an increase of more than $2. The current tax rate is $0.55. While 74 percent of nonsmokers support a tax increase, nearly half of smokers (41 percent) also favor an increase.

“We are very pleased to see the findings favor a tobacco tax increase,” explained Valerie Frey-McClung, Associate Director of Evaluation at the WVPRC. “Tobacco taxes are a proven strategy to reduce smoking, particularly among adolescents, and can often inspire adults to either quit or reduce their tobacco use.”

Sixty-eight percent favor increasing the tax on smokeless tobacco products. Support for both tax increases is strong across all incomes. More than 60 percent of those who reported having a household income of less than $30,000 support a tax increase. About 75 percent of those with incomes above $50,000 support a tobacco tax increase.

The WVATS was conducted during the first four months of 2014. The purpose of the WVATS is to examine tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. It is a means of assessing tobacco-related behaviors, attitudes and beliefs over time and helps measure the effectiveness of ongoing adult tobacco control programs funded by the Legislature through the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health’s Division of Tobacco Prevention.

 A total of 2,067 WV adults took part in this telephone survey. The responses were weighted to represent the entire adult West Virginia population.

The Prevention Research Center at West Virginia University is a member of the Prevention Research Centers Program, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement number 1-U48-DP-005004.

To learn more about the West Virginia Prevention Research Center, visit http://prc.hsc.wvu.edu/pages.