A new study to be published in the January 2016 issue of Pediatrics (published online Dec. 1) suggests that making cigarettes more expensive is an effective way to reduce the number of babies who die during their first year of life. Smoking tobacco during pregnancy is linked with infants’ medical problems that include low birthweight, premature birth, birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — the leading causes of infant mortality. For the study, “Cigarette Tax Increase and Infant Mortality,” researchers looked at cigarette tax rates for each state and the District of Columbia and combined them with the rate to determine the total cigarette tax in each state from 1999 through 2010. They determined that the inflation-adjusted state cigarette taxes rose from $.0.84 to $2.37. During that same time period, the average state infant mortality rate decreased from 7.3 to 6.2 per 1,000 live births. African American infants, who had a mortality rate more than twice as high as for white babies throughout the study period, saw rates drop from 14.3 to 11.3 per 1,000 births. After adjusting for factors such as education and income levels, researchers estimate that a $1 per pack increase in cigarette tax would result in a more than 3 percent drop in the U.S. infant mortality rate. This would translate into roughly 750 fewer infant deaths per year, or more than 2 per day.
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