An estimated 443,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses each year, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in her message in the 2012 Surgeon General’s report on smoking. Besides those premature, and preventable deaths, cigarette smoking costs the U.S. $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity each year, Sebelius wrote.
States have long worked to address these issues—many of them have raised the taxes on a pack of cigarettes in an effort to price them out of reach of potential new smokers. In fact, four of the states with the lowest taxes per pack of cigarettes also have among the highest rates of smoking and highest mortality rates. Utah, which has the lowest mortality rate from smoking and the lowest prevalence of smoking among adults, has the 36th highest tax rate. New York, which has the highest tax rate per pack of cigarettes, has the ninth lowest smoking prevalence rate and the 14th lowest smoking-attributable death rate. Kentucky has the highest smoking prevalence rate and smoking-attributable death rate, but the 11th lowest tax rate on a pack of cigarettes.