Smoking declines as taxes increase.

A USA Today report “finds that higher state taxes on smokers have produced sharp declines in consumption. The amount of decline in smoking is directly tied to the size of the tax increase.” Some examples:

— Cigarette sales fell 18% in North Carolina last year after the tax was raised in two steps to 35 cents from a nickel.

— Connecticut has increased its tax to $1.51 from 50 cents per pack in 2002. Since then, per capita consumption of cigarettes has fallen 37%.

— New Jersey raised its tax to $2.40 from 80 cents in 2002. Smoking has dropped 35%.

By contrast, South Carolina has kept its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax at 7 cents, and cigarette consumption there has fallen only 5 percent since 2000. Congress is currently considering raising the federal cigarette tax as a way to pay for expanded government health care for children.