Taxes on cigarettes help reduce number of smokers

Science and experience have demonstrated conclusively that cigarette tax increases are highly effective at reducing smoking, especially among kids. Thus, the conclusions in a Gallup poll The Hill recently wrote about (“High cigarette prices aren’t stopping smokers,” July 18) are inconsistent with what happens in the real world every time cigarette taxes are increased.

The most recent surgeon general’s report on tobacco concludes that “raising prices on cigarettes is one of the most effective tobacco control interventions.” The report called for additional cigarette tax increases “to prevent youth from starting smoking and encouraging smokers to quit.” The Congressional Budget Office has also reviewed the evidence and concluded that an increase in the federal cigarette tax would significantly reduce the number of adult smokers.

In the year after a 62-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax in 2009, cigarette sales declined by a historic 11.1 percent. Adult and youth smoking rates also declined. “This single legislative act — increasing the price of cigarettes — is projected to have reduced the number of middle and high school students who smoke by over 220,000 and the number using smokeless tobacco products by over 135,000,” the surgeon general’s report noted.

Even the poll The Hill wrote about reported that more than a quarter of adult smokers surveyed said they smoked less due to tax increases. As there are 42 million smokers in the United States, this translates into millions of smokers whose behavior is affected by cigarette tax increases. And this survey of current smokers would not have included former smokers who have already quit due to increased tobacco taxes.

Tobacco tax increases don’t have to cause every smoker or even a majority of smokers to quit or cut back in order to have a big impact on public health. As the scientific evidence and even the new Gallup poll show, such tax increases will impact the behavior of large numbers of smokers, saving many from a premature death.

From Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Washington, D.C.

Don’t rush to judgment on downed airplane

Rep. Peter King and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (among many other U.S. lawmakers), in their hysterical rush to judgment, want to blame Vladimir Putin for the recent downed Malaysian jetliner tragedy (“Rep. King: ‘Putin was involved,’ ” July 20; “Blumenthal: Putin responsible for ‘air terrorist tragedy,’ ” July 21). Yet, it will require many months to properly ascertain all of the facts pertaining to the tragic downing of the Malaysian Airlines jet, as typically happens when the National Transportation Safety Board investigates airplane crashes. Despite this, there are some facts that the lawmakers have not considered that are scarcely discussed in the mainstream Western media. 

First, the illegal and Western-leaning government of the Ukraine has the Buk anti-aircraft missile system, and its military accidentally shot down a Russian commercial aircraft in 2001. The U.S. military downed an Iranian civilian airliner in 1998. These are the kinds of accidents that can happen in a “trigger happy” war zone when undisciplined, improperly trained and immature “gung ho” fighters battle each other. 

Second, no credible proof has yet been presented that the rebels actually do possess the Buk anti-aircraft system beyond innuendos and alleged “witness” accounts. 

Third, Putin’s plane was apparently flying very close to the path of the doomed jetliner and may have been the intended target by the Ukrainian military. 

Finally, why a commercial jet flew into a war zone where military airplanes had already been shot down is a mystery. 

Before we rush to judgment by blaming Putin and start WWIII, let’s get to the bottom of who actually fired the missile and acknowledge that planes shouldn’t fly into war zones where they may be shot down — either accidentally or deliberately.

From Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nev.

Use foreign aid to reduce immigration of children

With thousands of unaccompanied child immigrants risking their lives to come to the United States, the U.S. government must address the problem. President Obama and leaders of Central American countries met to discuss the issue, concentrating most efforts on improving border security (“Obama, Mexican leader team up on border fix,” July 24).

 The problem with this approach is that it treats the symptoms and not the disease. Merely helping border agencies process more children will not stop others from taking dangerous journeys alone to the U.S. If we are serious about curbing child immigration, we must implement long-term development programs that protect children from the violence that causes them to immigrate.

 The U.S. spends very little in foreign aid to reduce crime in Central America. Security funds to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras combined are less than $10 million, according to Obama’s emergency budget request provides $29 million to border patrol while only devoting $5 million to all international programs.

Improving border security is important for processing increasing numbers of child immigrants, but it will not solve the problem. Bolstering Central American security programs is vital for stopping child immigration — and making the world a safer place.

From Ted Rappleye, Mountain Lakes, N.J.