Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Smoking: now for the menthol

My wife and I held our most recent weekly family meeting in the pub (no, the kids were home). It had been a long week.

On the way home, we passed the smokers in an external wind shelter. It was 10 F or so; they wouldn't have looked good in an ad. That's when we remembered pubs, bars, even restaurants (classrooms once upon a time) used to have smokers in them. We've gotten quickly used to a smoke-free world in the Twin Cities; a state wide ban is on the way.

It's not just the “progressive states”. When I was studying french in rural Quebec, my host family would meet to roll cigarettes every night (a most pleasant meeting too). Quebec now has a provincial smoking ban.

What's next? I usually think about regulating nicotine content, but an Atlantic (paywall) "primary sources" post reminded me that menthol is an adjuvant agent of addiction -- it slows nicotine metabolism. Eliminating menthol may be the logical next step ...

Update 1/16/07: Simple regulation would be wasteful of course. The better approach would to first put a differential tax on mentholated cigarettes. After a few years, add differential taxes based on nicotine content. This is the equivalent of a progressive decrease in nicotine patch strength done on a nationwide basis.

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