Hiking cigarette prices by $1.10 a pack over five years will cut teenage smoking by an average 42 percent and prevent nearly 1 million premature deaths, says Vice President Al Gore.
Campaigning for the Clinton administration's beleaguered anti-tobacco legislation, Gore on Sunday drew on a new Treasury Department analysis making the case that a pocketbook attack will encourage many young people to quit or never to take the first puff."Nearly as many Americans die every single day from the effects of smoking as died on that one day 85 years ago in the sinking of the Titanic," Gore says in remarks prepared for delivery Monday before a legislative conference of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) at Crystal City, Va.
"If the president's anti-tobacco plan is passed by Congress it will reduce underage teen smoking by 42 percent over the next five years, saving nearly 1 million precious lives," he said.
A text of the vice president's speech was obtained Sunday at the White House.
Gore's office said the projected estimate is that 991,000 smoking-related deaths would be avoided if the five-year plan is carried out.
The study concludes that the best way to reduce the overall impact of smoking on the nation's future health is to sharply reduce youth smoking. And it contends the most dependable way of doing that is to increase the price of cigarettes.
Gore cited surveys showing that teen smoking drops by about 7 percent for each 10 percent increase in the price of a pack ofcigarettes.
Overall, the administration seeks a $1.50 increase in cigarette prices over 10 years. Both near- and short-term plans envision an array of other steps, including eliminating cigarette vending machines, enforcing laws barring cigarette sales to minors, ending advertising aimed at young people and an anti-smoking advertising campaign.
Since President Clinton opened his battle against tobacco earlier in the administration, the administration has cited statistics showing that 3,000 young people start smoking every day of whom 1,000 will die prematurely of smoking-related diseases.
The Treasury Department study said that while its estimates show the cost-hike plan cutting youth smoking in every region, the percentage reductions vary state-by state because of different existing cigarette price levels.
It contains these estimates:
- A combination of price increases and restricted access to cigarettes over five years would result in reducing youth smoking and premature deaths from 33 percent to 36 percent in states like Washington, Massachusetts and Michigan and to 47 percent to 51 percent in states like Wyoming, South Carolina and Michigan.
- In the year 2003 alone, the number of young people kept from smoking would be about 1.6 million.
- Over five years the cumulative number of teens kept from smoking would be about 3 million. Projecting that roughly third of them otherwise would die prematurely from smoking, the study concludes nearly 1 million lives would be saved.
Gore's office said the Treasury Department estimates are based on studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, working papers of the National Bureau of Economic Research, papers published by the University of Illinois and other sources.