Many African-Americans support cigarette tax increases and reject arguments that higher prices are racially unfair, even though low-income smokers would take the hardest financial hits, a new study reports. There has been some general research on African-American attitudes toward tobacco control issues, but the Penn State study is the first to report direct findings on African-Americans and cigarette taxes, write Gary King, Ph.D., and colleagues in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health. From Center for the Advancement of Health :Study blows smoke on cigarette tax opposition by African-Americans
Many African-Americans support cigarette tax increases and reject arguments that higher prices are racially unfair, even though low-income smokers would take the hardest financial hits, a new study reports.
There has been some general research on African-American attitudes toward tobacco control issues, but the Penn State study is the first to report direct findings on African-Americans and cigarette taxes, write Gary King, Ph.D., and colleagues in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
The excise-tax issue is particularly germane to African-Americans because it highlights fairness issues regarding the regressive nature of cigarette taxes, the authors note. The findings can help promote a broader understanding of how African-Americans view tobacco-control policies, they say.
?Studies have shown that increasing excise taxes on cigarettes decreases smoking prevalence rates and can generate revenue for tobacco cessation and prevention programs,? they say. ?Moreover, the health burden of cigarette smoking has affected African-Americans disproportionately in relation to whites, in terms of higher lung cancer rates, more premature deaths and increased smoking-related morbidity.?
The study focused on 1,000 individuals from 10 districts that have African-American congressional representation. The respondents were asked questions on African-American smoking behavior, attitudes to smoking deterrence, spending power, sociopolitical issues, demographics and effective political representation.
Of those responding, 47 percent said taxes on tobacco products should be increased, compared to 30 percent who believed that they should be reduced and 23 percent who want the tax to stay the same. One in five of the study participants declared themselves smokers.
Almost 75 percent disagreed that raising taxes on tobacco products is unfair to African-Americans, and 57.9 percent reported that they would not be opposed to increasing taxes on cigarettes even if low-income smokers would be hit the hardest.
African-Americans who had higher levels of education were more likely to back cigarette tax increases as were younger respondents and those who were nonsmokers and former smokers. Almost 20 percent of African-American smokers agreed that cigarette taxes should be raised.
?Our results demonstrate that African-Americans have varied opinions about issues related to tobacco control but indicate substantial support for taxation policies designed to reduce cigarette consumption,? the authors say.
Other findings include:
A majority of respondents (53 percent) believe cigarette smoking is increasing among African-Americans, and 42 percent say it is ?very easy? for minors to buy cigarettes in their community.
More than half (53 percent) agreed strongly or somewhat with the viewpoint that ?African-Americans elected to office really do not have the power to change very much in this country.?
Respondents from the Midwest, Northeast and West were more than twice as likely as residents from the ?Tobacco Belt? in the South to favor government tax increases on tobacco products.
More than three-quarters shared the view that African-Americans should have influence over the government and economy in mostly black communities.
?This study makes it more difficult for the tobacco industry and advocates to argue that African-Americans are opposed to raising cigarette taxes because it would be more detrimental to their social and economic interests,? King says.
The research was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Substance Abuse Policy Research Program.
By Hiram Reisner, Contributing Writer
Health Behavior News Service
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