Price of cigarettes goes up

April 1, 2009 3:19:37 PM PDT
58-year-old Ben Myers takes out a cigarette and lights up. The smoker for three decades says he's fired up his habit is now costing him more.Wednesday, the federal tax went from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack.

"I don't think it's fair. I think it should go up on liquor and beer. More people been killed by liquor and beer than they have cigarettes," offered Myers.

He isn't the only smoker who's upset. Quanteria McNair had to put back a bag of chips at a Durham shell station when her total, thanks to a pack of cigarettes, rang up higher than expected.

"That's too much a pack. Five dollars a pack? I might as well go to McDonald's and get me a meal for five dollars," she said.

Across the Triangle in Brier Creek, RF Tobacco owner Hedal Patel says some are buying cartons rather than packs to save a few bucks. Others are pledging dramatic actions.

"In the morning I got a customer and he told me, 'I'm gonna leave the country,'" said Patel.

Many more say the extra costs may lead to a lifestyle change. That's the hope for officials at the North Carolina Division of Public Health. They want the tax to lead to many kicking the habit. They say calls to their hotline - 1-800-QUIT-NOW - have increased 192% in the last few months - most of that since the tax was announced.

As for Ben Myers, he says he'll probably won't buy as much but has no plans to quit.

"If it kill me, it kill me," he said.

The state tax on a pack of cigarettes is 35 cents, so the total tax is now $1.36 per pack.

The federal hike is thanks to a new law signed by President Obama. He stopped smoking but has admitted he slips now and then. The extra money will be used to finance a major expansion of health insurance for children.


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