Teenage Smoking:

Higher Excise Tax Should Significantly Reduce the Number of Smokers

HRD-89-119: Published: Jun 30, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the impact of cigarette excise taxes on teenage smoking, focusing on the: (1) extent and consequences of teenage smoking; and (2) the effects of cigarette excise tax increases on the number of teenage smokers.

GAO found that: (1) despite the decline in teenage smoking since 1975, almost one in six teenagers smoked; (2) the prevalence of smoking among high school seniors was greater for those who were female, white, not planning to get a bachelor's degree, or lived in the Northeast; (3) the health consequences included greater risks of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease; (4) raising the federal excise tax on cigarettes would reduce teenage smoking to the extent that teenage smokers would respond to the higher prices; (5) the current pool of teenage smokers would be more resistant to new health information and changes in price; (6) the increasing concentration of smokers among low-income people may increase teenage price responsiveness; and (7) an estimated 21-cent-per-pack increase in the federal excise tax in 1989 would likely lead to a reduction of over 500,000 teenage smokers, which would effectively reduce teenage smoking.

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