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Poll Finds Tax Increase Influences Smoking Behavior in Kentucky

Jan 10, 2019

While many Kentuckians may have resolved to quit smoking in 2019, data released today show that legislation passed last summer may increase their success.

On July 1, 2018, the Kentucky excise tax on cigarettes increased by 50 cents per pack. According to the 2018 Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP), this increase caused half of smokers in Kentucky to react in some way. Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) adult smokers said they were smoking fewer cigarettes per day as a result of the tax. Further, 33% said they were considering quitting smoking, and 26% indicated that they had made an attempt to quit. Respondents were able to provide more than one answer.  

The survey, sponsored by Interact for Health and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, was conducted in the months immediately following the price increase, between August and October of 2018.

Kentucky’s tax rate of $1.10 per pack of cigarettes after the increase is still less than the national average of $1.79 per pack. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, taxing rates across the nation range from a high of $4.50 per pack in the District of Columbia to a low of 17 cents per pack in Missouri.

“The survey data show that the tax increase got the attention of smokers in Kentucky, with many indicating that they may change their behavior as a result. That is something health advocates will watch,” said O’dell Moreno Owens, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of Interact for Health. “But there is so much more that must be done to reduce the burden of tobacco on Kentuckians. We must continue to employ effective, evidence-based strategies, which include price increases of $1 or more, mass media campaigns and comprehensive policies to eliminate exposure to all tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes.”

Kentuckians who are interested in assistance with quitting smoking can utilize the state’s tobacco quit line, 1-800-QUIT NOW, or resources online at

Almost a quarter smoke cigarettes

Kentucky adults continue to smoke cigarettes at rates higher than the national average. KHIP found that nearly 1 in 4 Kentucky adults (23%) said they were current cigarette smokers. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nationally, 17% of U.S. adults were cigarette smokers in 2017.

Kentuckians with lower incomes continue to use cigarettes at rates greater than those with higher incomes. KHIP data show that 35% of Kentucky adults earning 138% or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) were smokers, compared with 16% of Kentucky adults earning more than 138% of FPG.

Nearly a quarter of Kentucky adults have vaped

Finally, KHIP asked about the use of electronic cigarettes. The survey found that 1 in 4 Kentucky adults (24%) had ever tried an e-cigarette. Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices used to inhale vaporized liquid. The liquid can contain nicotine or other substances. Usage of e-cigarettes can also be referred to as vaping.

Of the respondents who had tried such a device, KHIP asked about regular use, defined as consumption every day or some days, and determined that 3 in 10 Kentucky adults who have ever vaped (32%) are regular users of electronic cigarettes.

“Many think they are safer by using devices like e-cigarettes; however, exposure of any kind to nicotine is concerning,” said Owens. “These devices deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development. Thus, as Interact for Health and our partners look at ways to reduce tobacco use in our Kentucky communities, addressing e-cigarettes is a key component.”

About the Kentucky Health Issues Poll

The 2018 Kentucky Health Issues Poll was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health. It was conducted Aug. 26-Oct. 21, 2018, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 1,569 adults from throughout Kentucky was interviewed by telephone. This included 697 landline interviews and 872 interviews with cell phone users. In 95 of 100 cases, the statewide estimates will be accurate to ±2.5%. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as nonresponse, question wording or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For more information about the Kentucky Health Issues Poll, please visit or

About Interact for Health

Interact for Health is improving the health of all people in our region. We serve as a catalyst by promoting health equity through grants, education, research, policy and engagement. To amplify the impact of our work, Interact for Health focuses on three strategic priorities: reducing tobacco use, addressing the opioid epidemic and ensuring that children have access to health care through school-based health centers. We are an independent foundation that serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

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