African-Americans willing to shoulder higher cigarette taxes

April 29, 2003

A nationally dispersed study of 1,000 African-Americans indicates substantial support for increasing excise taxes on cigarettes, according to a Penn State study.

"Forty-seven percent of respondents stated that taxes on tobacco products should be increased, compared to 30 percent who believed that they should be reduced," says Dr. Gary King, associate professor of biobehavioral health. "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 taxed on cigarettes even if low-income smokers would be hit the hardest."

Younger Blacks and those at higher educational levels were more inclined to support higher taxes on cigarettes, as well as Blacks who were nonsmokers (55.4 percent) and former smokers (48.1 percent), King notes. Almost 20 percent of African American smokers (18.5 percent) agreed that cigarette taxes should be raised.

Blacks have good reason to cut tobacco consumption through taxation since Blacks suffer more than Whites from the ill effects of cigarette smoking, including higher rates of cancer and other smoking-related diseases. "Studies have shown that increasing excise taxes on cigarettes decreases smoking prevalence rates and can generate revenue for tobacco cessation and prevention programs," says King.

King is co-author of the article, "African Americans' Attitudes Toward Cigarette Excise Taxes," scheduled to appear in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health. His co-authors are: Dr. Lynn T. Kozlowski, chair of the biobehavioral health program at Penn State; Robyn K. Mallett, Penn State graduate student in psychology; and Dr. Robert B. Bendel, with the College of Nursing at Washington State University in Spokane.

The researchers interviewed a stratified cluster sample of approximately 1,000 African Americans in 10 U.S. congressional districts represented by African Americans, with one in five of the study participants being themselves smokers.

The results of this study may be valuable in promoting tobacco control efforts, including the enactment of anti-tobacco laws," King says. "They may also promote greater diversity in antismoking coalitions, development of alliances involving African American political and civic organizations and a broader understanding of African Americans' opinions regarding tobacco control policies." According to King, this study makes it more difficult for the tobacco industry or advocates to argue that African Americans are opposed to increasing taxes on cigarettes.
This research was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Substance Abuse Policy Research Program.

Penn State

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