The link between price and tobacco consumption has been proved time and again: raise the price, lower the consumption. Give the French government credit for acting – rather drastically in fact – once they finally made up their collective minds that smoking is bad for people, especially young people:
- Tobacco vendors across France greeted a steep new increase in cigarette prices Monday by shutting their shops in an unprecedented nationwide strike against the government’s war on smoking.
….Monday’s 20 percent price rise pushed the average price per pack to euro4.60 ($5.40). It is the second increase of the year, with another looming in early 2004 that would raise prices to about euro5.40 ($6.30) per pack – roughly a 50 percent increase in the span of a year.
The three tax hikes in 12 months will make France one of the most expensive places on the continent to smoke. With Monday’s increase, government taxes account for about 80 percent of the price per pack.
….Some 20 million French smoke – over a third of the population – as do 50 percent of youths aged 15-24, the highest rate in the European Union, government figures show.
Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei defended the tax increases as the most effective way to cut France’s dependancy on nicotine. Cigarette sales fell an unprecedented 8.2 percent in the first eight months of the year. [AP]
Imagine the tobacco belt legislative response to $6.30 a pack here, with 80% of the price coming from taxes. This is a particularly effective move because the price factor is strongest among young people who on average have less disposable income.
The “punishing the poor” argument? Dung – if the poor are priced out of the market, their health will improve and they will benefit disproportionately. There is no “compassion” involved in enabling cancer, emphysema, heart disease, etc., etc.
If the French are going to live with the Big State, you have to give them credit for wielding it when they think it’s the right thing to do, whether or not the decision is popular.