At a time when cigarettes were still considered safe, they were cheap and widely popular — costing just 25 cents a pack on average in the 1950s.
In 1965, 42% of adults smoked. Since then, the adult smoking rate has declined and now stands at 14%. Despite the decline, smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, accounting for nearly half a million deaths each year.
Following the Surgeon General’s landmark 1964 report on smoking and health, governments employed many strategies to reduce the smoking rate. While warning labels on packaging, anti-smoking media campaigns, and health education in schools play an important role in promoting a smoke-free lifestyle, one of the most effective methods has been increasing the retail price of a pack of cigarettes by raising taxes.
The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in the United States today has risen to an average of over $6.00 — including all taxes — with prices at the state level ranging from $4.96 in Missouri to over $10.00 in New York state. The differences in the state-level cigarette prices are the result of differences in state tax rates. Federal and state taxes range from 23.8% of the total price of a pack of cigarettes to over 50.0% in some states, including New York.
Tobacco consumption is known to be a major cause of lung cancer, which is one of the most common types of cancer in both men and women. Many of the states with the highest prices of cigarettes have the lowest consumption rates and are some of the states with the lowest rates of lung cancer deaths.
To highlight how the price of cigarettes has changed over time and the possible impacts on smoking and smoking-related illnesses, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the average price, taxes, and consumption rates of cigarettes over the decades.