Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Michigan Quits Smokers

A tale of two quitters: In September, state officials claim that 18,000-plus calls were taken by the Tobacco Quit Line. In January 2005, we were told that 3,100 people called the line in a 6 month period from July to January.
For that same 6-month period in 2004, the line received 550 calls.
This massive demand is staggering and suspect.
Now, the line and program are being shut down. The claim is that supplies of free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges, which were announced on March 11 and available via a call to the quit line, are all gone under a deluge of 21,000 calls in one day. Done. No more program until September, according to the recording now greeting callers to the line.
Seems the program is a rather major success in some ways. This kind of response should be one for the books. Granted Michigan taxes tobacco at a high rate of $2 a pack – only New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington tax higher – and we also lead the nation in unemployment. So there is some considerable incentive there to drop the butt. But in closing the line, do we say ‘Mission Accomplished’? How do you announce a giveaway and then in five days pull the plug?
Maybe the state outfoxed itself in keeping that tax unrealistically high. In October, tobacco tax revenues were down 20.2%. In 2007, those revenues were down 3.4%. Now, apparently, the program that has been promoted via advertising and in press statements is over with the flick of a switch, just after the launch of a new element of that program.
Below is a report on the state or the smoke in Michigan from last year reflecting 2007. The new report is due soon, provided no one takes too many smoke breaks.
Michi Tobacco

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