SelfHelpWorks Behavior Expert Predicts Effect of California Tobacco Tax Hike

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On April 1st, California implemented a $2-per-pack tax hike on cigarettes. Lou Ryan, behavior expert and founder of online behavioral change company SelfHelpWorks, explains why he believes the new tax will have little to zero impact on the smoking rate in the state.

The other type of habit is driven by emotion, and this habit is far more stubborn.

In the November 2016 general elections, California voters approved a $2.00 tax hike on tobacco, making the total tax $2.87 per pack. The tax was implemented in April 2017. But will the higher tax cause smokers to quit? Behavior expert and SelfHelpWorks founder Lou Ryan believes it will not, and explains why.

“Everyone knows smoking is a tough habit to kick and it’s not because cigarettes have always been so cheap,” says Ryan. “While some smokers do attempt to quit because of the higher costs, the data shows us that a very small percentage actually stay quit, and obviously staying quit is the key.”

Ryan believes the reason most smokers have such trouble quitting comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding. “All habits are not created equal - the real reason smokers have such a tough time quitting is, in a word, emotion,” says Ryan. “There are really two types of habits. One type is mechanical in nature, like dropping your car keys on your kitchen table every day after work. These habits are comparatively easy to change. The other type of habit is driven by emotion, and this habit is far more stubborn - like smoking, overeating, etc. This is precisely why we launched SelfHelpWorks – we use a process known as cognitive behavioral training to help people eliminate tough, emotionally-rooted habits like smoking, drinking or unhealthy eating.”

Ryan predicts a temporary dip in the number of California smokers (currently at around 1 in 9 adults), followed by a gradual return to the pre-tax rate. “A small amount of people will probably remain ex-smokers, and good for them,” says Ryan, “But for most, they’ll wind up coming back to the habit simply because they remain emotionally attached – they are what I call non-smoking smokers, the people who quit smoking but their brain still thinks like a smoker. Unfortunately these folks almost always wind up smoking again. In five years we’ll see just what the impact of this tax-hike was on public health…”

For anyone interested in learning more about SelfHelpWorks’ online smoking cessation or weight loss courses, the company website is a good place to start.

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Bryan Noar
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