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Genes and Taxes

While the number of smokers has declined, about 20 percent of the population still smokes, even as taxes on tobacco rise, and an economist hypothesizes that a gene variant related to nicotine addiction may make smokers more likely to respond to tax increases, The New York Times reports.

The economist, Jason Fletcher from the Yale School of Public Health, writes in PLOS One that he examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and linked genotypes and geocodes. He then determined smoking status, state taxation rates, and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, or CHRNA6, genotype. From this, he says that only people with the G/G polymorphism, about half, respond to increased taxation.

Fletcher adds that his findings are preliminary. "Like previous reports of G X E, until this study's findings are replicated in alternate samples, policy recommendations are premature," he writes. He tells the Times, though, that "as we get more and more convinced that people with certain genotypes may respond differently to policies, that means that alternative policies may be necessary."

HT: Paul Raeburn at The Knight Science Journalism Tracker

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