MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health say a clear majority of West Virginians would support a substantial increase in taxes on tobacco products on the condition that the extra revenue collected would benefit public health.

West Virginia adults participating in last year’s Adult Tobacco Survey (WVATS) were asked whether or not they favored a conditional tax increase and how much that increase should be. Sixty percent favored a significantly higher, dedicated cigarette tax, with 43 percent supporting a state tax increase of $2 or more (which would make West Virginia’s tax rate $2.55 cents per pack of cigarettes). Slightly more were behind a tax increase for smokeless tobacco products. Researchers were surprised to find that 38 percent of smokers spoke up in favor of a tax hike on cigarettes in addition to the two-thirds of nonsmokers who responded similarly.

Both genders were found to favor a cigarette tax increase to benefit public health improvement. Women were found to be particularly supportive of a tax increase: more than twice as many favored such a measure (64 percent) than opposed it (30 percent). The remaining 6 percent had no opinion or did not answer the question.

“These findings are encouraging since higher prices deter kids from picking up cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and often inspire adults to quit or reduce their tobacco use,” explained Valerie Frey-McClung, investigator at the WVU Prevention Research Center. “From a public health perspective, increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways of reducing tobacco use.”

Survey participants were also asked if they would favor a similar tax on smokeless tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, snuff, dip and snus. Similar support from both genders was noted. The measure was most popular among young adults aged 18 to 24.

Designed to monitor tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, the WVATS provides a method of assessing tobacco-related behaviors, attitudes and beliefs over time and helps measure the effectiveness of ongoing adult tobacco control programs funded by the Legislature through the Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Tobacco Prevention.

The 2012 WVATS was conducted over the first four months of 2012. A total of 2,132 adults were surveyed via telephone, including a sample of adults in households that use cell phones only. Respondents were weighted to represent the entire adult West Virginia population.

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For more information: Leigh Limerick, Communications Specialist, 304-293-7087
lal: 02-19-13