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March 22, 1995

Legislating Tobacco Use: Are Subsidies Hypocritical?-Reply

Author Affiliations

Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University New York, NY

JAMA. 1995;273(12):919. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520360033029

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In Reply.  —I have opposed tobacco subsidies since my tenure as secretary of health, education, and welfare in the late 1970s. But tobacco subsidies deserve less attention in the wake of 1982 legislation that (except for a $1 billion bailout in 1986) reduced their cost to taxpayers to almost nil. Tobacco farmers and cigarette manufacturers now finance most of the cost, and the effect of reducing taxpayer subsidies is only enough to increase the price of a pack of cigarettes by 2 to 3 cents. If anything, the higher price may serve to discourage people—especially teenagers—from smoking.In short, tobacco subsidies are not worth the battle that would be required to eliminate them. Instead, we should focus on the biggest threat to the public health from the tobacco industry—its use of advertising and marketing aimed at children and teenagers who represent a fresh crop of addicts to its deadly products.

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