New York has reduced the rate of both teen and adult smoking by hiking the price for a pack of cigarettes and running a long-term anti-smoking promotional campaign.
You always wonder when government interferes in the marketplace, does it work? The answer is “no” most of the time. But here, it actually works.
Smoking among adults is now down to 14% of the state’s population, just about the lowest in the country. Teen smoking, meanwhile, dropped from just under 20% to 7% over the last nine years, which coincides with the educational campaign.
New York raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to over $11. (Imagine that!) There’s now an active market of people selling loose cigarettes on street corners for $1 a pop because the cost of a pack is so much. Then the state also pounds people with messages about how bad smoking is.
Both the messages and the cost made a huge difference. There are smoking bans in effect it seems practically everywhere in New York City, even in public parks.
The question is do we want to get serious about public health? When I’ve talked about the smoking debate before, people have compared it to the government trying to tell you what you can or can’t eat and expressed their concerns.
But nobody’s telling people they can’t smoke, they’re just saying where you can smoke and what you have to pay. In terms of long-term benefit for our country, I think getting people to quit is a great goal.