Detailed Findings & Methodology
Increasing excise taxes has become a common and effective tool for federal, state, and local governments to reduce smoking. The largest federal cigarette excise tax increase went into effect on April 1, 2009 when the $0.39 tax was raised to $1.01 per pack. That year, nationwide pack sales declined by 8.3%, the largest single-year decline since 1932.
According to non-profit organization and tobacco consumption reduction advocate, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, statewide cigarette tax increases of at least 50 cents a pack have generally also led to a significant reduction in cigarette sales in the state. Between 2006 and 2015, there were 26 tobacco tax hikes of 50 cents or more in 23 states and the District of Columbia. One year after those increases, cigarette pack sales fell by at least 10% compared to the 12 months prior in all but three cases.
Partially due to recent tax increases, the average price of a pack of cigarettes in the United States, even after adjusting for inflation, is at a near record high. In 2014, federal and state taxes accounted for 43.8% of the retail price of a pack. During the 1980s and 1990s, taxes hovered between one-third and one-fourth of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes.
Cigarette consumption peaked in the 1960s and 1970s at above 2,500 cigarettes per capita a year. Over the next several decades, cancer diagnoses rose, and by 1991 the incidence of death from lung cancer had reached a record high.
Trailing the steady decline since the early 1980s in the adult smoking rate, the cancer death rate has declined as well from the 1991 peak. For every American, 845 cigarettes were consumed in 2014, a third of the amount smoked during 1960s and 1970s. The lung and bronchus cancer death rate fell from 64 per 100,000 people in 1991 to 43 per 100,000 in 2014 — and will likely continue to fall.
To determine the cost of a pack of cigarettes the year you were born, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average weighted retail price of a pack of cigarettes from the 2015 Tax Burden on Tobacco report from the Federation of Tax Administrators. State and federal cigarette taxes for each year as well as annual consumption per capita also came from this report. Inflation adjusted prices per pack are in chained 2009 dollars. The rate of lung and bronchus cancer deaths came from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2017 report.