Higher taxes and prices for cigarettes are strongly associated with lower infant mortality rates in the United States, according to a new study from Vanderbilt University and the University of Michigan published in the journal, Pediatrics.
The association was stronger for African-American infants than for non-Hispanic White infants, which has implications for trying to reduce disparities in infant mortality between the two groups.
Researchers found that for every $1 tax increase per pack of cigarettes, about two infant deaths were averted each day. Overall, there was an estimated 3.2 percent decrease in annual infant mortality rates, or 750 fewer infant deaths per year, associated with the tax increase, the study revealed.
The study is a collaboration among researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Departments of Pediatrics and Health Policy and U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, School of Public Health and School of Public Policy.
“Exposure to cigarettes during pregnancy is associated with numerous health problems for newborns, including preterm birth which is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Taxing cigarettes is known to help convince people to quit smoking, or not to start. This study helps physicians, public health officials and policymakers understand just how much benefit cigarette tax increases can have on infant health,” said lead author Dr. Stephen Patrick, assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy in the Division of Neonatology at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“Our approach is a different way to think about cigarette taxes,” says senior author Dr. Matthew M. Davis, professor of health management and policy at U-M School of Public Health and professor of pediatrics at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and of public policy at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy.
“Usually taxes are used in public health as a way to discourage smoking and therefore improve the health of the person who previously smoked, or is considering starting. But connecting tax increases to smoking reductions and to fewer infant deaths brings in an entirely new type of benefit.”
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, disease, disability and death in the United States, research has shown.
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