Huge cigarette tax hike in effect

April 1, 2009 3:34:05 PM PDT
The biggest federal tobacco tax hike in history is now in effect.The price for a pack of cigarettes went up 62 cents nationwide overnight.

The federal tax on a pack of cigarettes went from 39 cents a pack up to $1.01 a pack.

President Obama signed the measure in February to raise money to expand a childhood insurance program.

The tax hike is expected to raise about 33 billion dollars over the next four and a half years.

At a time when money's tight, the higher price for a pack of cigarettes is hitting smokers right where in hurts.

"I buy the cheapest cigarettes I can find, and it's moving closer to four dollars a pack now. So I am starting to reach my financial willingness to pay for that," said Vincent Ferreti of Northeast Philadelphia.

"The last pack I bought was $5.22 at the Hess gas station. I am not buying anymore," said Charles Jackson of South Philadelphia.

"That's it."

While the increase in federal tax is designed to benefit children, critics say it's an unfair tax on the poor. Polls say 34% of people earning less than $12,000 per year smoke, while only 13% of those making more than $90,000 per year light up.

Health experts say that every time the tax on tobacco goes up, cigarette use goes down. Some expect the federal tax hike will encourage at least a million of the nation's 45 million adult smokers to kick the habit.

Some tobacco companies increased prices in advance of the tax increase to off-set any decrease in sales.

Every single smoker Action News interviewed Wednesday morning said the big tax hike is a big incentive to quit.

"Yeah, it will help you quit. It will help you quit. It's going to help me quit," said Carol Keigler-Rose of South Philadelphia.

"I think it's terrible. Encouraging me to quit. Me and my girlfriend have already talked about it," said George Loveless of Northeast Philadelphia.

The federal tax hike applies to other tobacco products from cigars to pipes to smokeless tobacco.

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