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The biggest federal tax increase on cigarettes took effect today. Now, smokers now have to pay 62 cents more for a pack of cigarettes. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner visited a local tobacco store to see how they are dealing with the tax increase.
As the door swings open at Don Johnson’s Tobacco World in Springfield, the sweet smell of tobacco greets customers as they come in.
Donald Johnson has been in the tobacco business for over 30 years and opened Tobacco World in 1995.
He says the tax increase made a lot of smokers stock up before the increase went into effect.“We’ve had two of the biggest days we’ve ever had in the past two days. I mean it’s been incredible. The shelves are absolutely bare. There’s nothing here. You know, it’s a shock to the system and to the purse and the wallets, but we know over a period of time that the people that are going to smoke, they’ll finally calm down and they’ll get used to it. It’s hard. Part of their economy that could be going to food is going to extra taxes,” Johnson said.Johnson says he feels like the government is singling out a certain group of people to tax, which he says is un-American.
He says the increase may cause some people to quit smoking, but the majority of smokers he knows will continue to pay extra for their tobacco.“There’s nothing wrong with those that want to quit and choose to quit. We’re all for those people, but to be priced out of being able to smoke is really not fair. It’s not the American way, so I think we need to rethink some things. And if we’re going to put a tax on it, let’s put a tax that everybody should bear part of the cost, not one small group,” Johnson said.Johnson says if the government continues to raise the cigarettes tax, then smoking may become a habit for only the rich.
One customer, buying some cigars at Tobacco World was Andrew Smith.
He says he’s been smoking for a couple of years and the tax increase doesn’t matter to him.“People will quit eating before they stop smoking, and I’m losing weight, so that sounds good to me. Although, I still like to eat, but I do like to smoke,” Smith said.Smokers and tobacco salespeople may see the increase as unnecessary, but doctors say this is a great motivator to help people break the habit.
Dr. Jim Blaine says when the federal cigarette tax goes up, there’s a clear decrease in people starting to smoke.“As a clinician and as someone who takes care of people who smoke, any increase and incentive for people to stop is going to add years of life to my patients and so I am very much in favor of it,” Blaine said.He says the average male who smokes from his teenage years until he dies loses 13 years of his life.
Blaine says he hopes the money the government gets from this cigarette tax increase goes toward smoking prevention programs.
For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.