Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was back in Washington, D.C. today, where, as co-chair of the national Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Committee, he made this announcement at a news conference: U.S. cigarette sales in 2005 dropped 4.2 percent from 2004, the largest one-year percentage decrease since 1999. But the really remarkable number is that cigarette sales in the United States have dropped more than 21 percent since the 1998 settlement between state attorneys general and tobacco companies that resulted in huge payments to states, along with new restrictions on tobacco advertising and marketing (such as the demise of the once-ubiquitous cigarette pack vending machine). It should also be noted that recent years have seen large cigarette tax hikes in many states, making the smokes much pricier – a move that in most cases was aimed at discouraging smoking.
A statement from Wasden’s office noted, “The 378 billion cigarettes sold in the United States in 2005 represented the lowest number of cigarettes sold in the United States since 1951. This decline is even more impressive because the United States population has more than doubled since that time.”
Of course, Idaho is counting on cigarette tax proceeds to fund various state projects, including the renovation of the state Capitol.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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