Cigarette Tax Hike - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Crystal Oko

Cigarette Tax Hike

ROCHESTER, MN (KTTC-DT) -- Smokers have a new reason to quit.  Beginning Wednesday, that pack of cigarettes will be $0.62 more expensive.  It's all because of a tax increase and it's not a little jump.

It's the single largest federal tobacco tax increase.

The tax will go from $0.39 a pack to a $1.01 per pack.

A $0.62 hike that has some smokers upset.

For the first time in 50 years the smoking prevalance in the United States is now less than 20% despite how hard it is to quit.

"Most people in this day and time have a lot of trouble stopping smoking," said Dr. Richard Hurt of Mayo Clinic.

And as that number continues to drop, the cost of cigarettes is about to take a huge jump that's set to begin Wednesday.

"I think it's kind of outrageous. Cause two years ago it went up to 75-cents a pack, now it's going up to a dollar and something for cigarettes," said Gerald Gray, a smoker of 25-years.

Dr. Richard Hurt of Mayo Clinic calls the tax hike one of the most effective public health policies that we have.

"Everytime that there's a tax increase or price increase in cigarettes it does three things. It increases the chances of a person stopping smoking. It decreases the chances of your child or grandchild to start smoking and it reduces smoking in people who continue to smoke on average of 3-5 cigarettes per day," said Dr. Richard Hurt of the Mayo Clinic.

Hurt was the state's first witness in the 1998 tobacco trial in St. Paul.

"What we learned from them is the playbook of the tobacco companies. So one reason they fight for smoke-free work places and increasing prices or taxes so much, is because those two things drive down consumption," said Dr. Hurt.

It may drive down consumption for Gerald Gray, a 25-year smoker, who is fed up with the price of lighting up. Gray says he's thought about quitting.

"I've been considering it, yeah. I've been considering it," said Gray.

Major cigarette makers raised prices a couple of weeks ago, partly to offset any drop in profits once the tax climbs tomorrow.

The tax will finance a major expansion for health insurance for children.

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