Smokers pinched by price jump

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 9:11 AM
Last updated 9:25 AM
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A federal tax hike on tobacco doesn't kick in until next week, but smokers already are noticing higher prices.

A 62-cent increase in the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes goes into effect April 1. Tobacco companies already have raised prices in anticipation of the new tax - which will apply to all inventory they have on hand - pushing the cost of many brands well past $4 per pack.

"We raised our prices primarily to cover the cost of the tax," said Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Altria, the company that owns Marlboro-maker Philip Morris.

On the bright side, the tax hike may push some smokers to quit. Studies show that, for every 10 percent increase in the cost of cigarettes, smoking declines by 4 percent among adults and 7 percent among children.

"As the price of cigarettes in general goes up, consumption goes down, which is the case with everything," said Derrick Gable, tobacco use prevention coordinator for the Northeast Georgia Public Health District.

At the Lay-Z-Shopper, a downtown Athens convenience store, tobacco sales remain steady, although some customers have been complaining about the higher prices and switching to less expensive brands, manager Raed Asmer said.

"Sales won't change," Mr. Asmer said. "People will still buy it, no matter what."

Mr. Phelps, though, acknowledges that the tax is likely to cut into tobacco companies' business. Altria is anticipating that it will sell fewer cigarettes once the tax hike takes effect.

"We expect the increase to accelerate the decline in sales of cigarettes," he said.

The tax increase will raise an estimated $32.8 billion to help fund health care for children.

The tax on cigarettes is slated to rise from 39 cents to $1.01.

Taxes on cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and loose tobacco for rolling cigarettes also will go up.

Georgia smokers still will pay less than residents in most other states. State excise and sales taxes on a pack of cigarettes total 55 cents, fifth-lowest in the country, according to the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Democrats in the Legislature pushed to raise the state tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack, a move they said would raise $450 million to help ease a budget crisis. The bill failed to pass the House by the deadline to be considered in the Senate.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina a 50-cent cigarette tax increase is up for debate.

Plans to raise the nation's lowest cigarette tax by 50 cents to support a new health insurance program for low-paid South Carolina workers appear to have broad support.

A House Ways and Means subcommittee takes up the bill today and it is expected to be sent to the House for debate later this week.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston sponsored the bill and House Minority Leader Harry Ott of St. Matthews supports it.

The legislation generates $147 million, with $139 million for a new insurance program. Under that program, workers who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level would get a 75 percent credit on health insurance through the Palmetto Health Care Safety Net Program. The state support would be capped at $3,000 a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 03/24/09 - 08:47 am
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Plans to raise the nation's

Plans to raise the nation's lowest cigarette tax by 50 cents to support a new health insurance program for low-paid South Carolina workers appear to have broad support. -----I guess this means that if you are a lowpaid worker in South Carolina and you smoke, that you will now have health insurance too. Go ahead, smoke yourself to death, at least you will have health insurance.

My_2nd
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My_2nd 03/24/09 - 09:04 am
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i would hope that any new

i would hope that any new health care plan will do as so many insurance companies have. increase the deductible and lower the coverage % for those that choose a unhealthy lifestyle (habit.)

cara1985
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cara1985 03/24/09 - 09:40 am
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i'm tired of the government

i'm tired of the government picking on the smokers. Although smoking is bad for you and a bad habit, it is not illegal and people should not be punished for being addicted to something that is perfectly legal. Why don't they tax alcohol? More people drink than smoke anyway. They will make a lot more money off of alcoholics than the minority smokers.

latosha_5
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latosha_5 03/24/09 - 10:18 am
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i am with you cara. they

i am with you cara. they should hike some taxes on alcohol since it's an unhealthy lifestyle choice...and while they're at it how bout they hike up some taxes on fast food. obesity is gettin crazy in our country!!!

dixiechick007
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dixiechick007 03/24/09 - 10:26 am
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And when the price of food

And when the price of food goes up, the consumption goes down. I agree smoking is bad but that is that persons choice. To raise the prices is only to line the governments pockets with more money. You have to pay a fortune for anything these days.

WClark40
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WClark40 03/24/09 - 10:40 am
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Question?After the state

Question?After the state reduces cigarette smoking by say 30%.What will they do to make up for the lost revenue.This state and country have not showed the propensity to reduce and trim budgets.Where will this projected shortfall that will occur be made up for?They will find another group to pick on.These are the sort of government actions that the citizens should actually fear because it wont get better from this point!!

devilishlymad67
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devilishlymad67 03/24/09 - 11:21 am
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i wonder what it involves to

i wonder what it involves to grow your own? That way the low income workers can buy their own insurance instead of relying upon smokers to support them. Awful sounding but true. What are they going to do when more people quit purchasing it? who are they going to condemn and punish next? Bears thinking about does it not?

mutt
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mutt 03/24/09 - 11:41 am
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Like so many other tax and

Like so many other tax and spend schemes, the govt doesn't know when to stop, and they over reach causing an unexpected negative reaction that leads to reduced tax revenue instead of increased. I really believe they have passed the tipping point here. So for those of you who think it's ok to pick on the stupid smokers, keep in mind........it may be your "stupid" "unhealthy" habit they come after next. I bet you'll ask what happened to personal freedom when they start forcing you to live as they please at the point of the tax mans gun.

mutt
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mutt 03/24/09 - 11:51 am
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When the government uses the

When the government uses the media to systematically pit citizens against each other by demonising a small minority, who can't yell loud enough to defend themselves over the frenzied mob.........Liberty looses and MOB RULE gains a stronger foot hold. No ones freedom is safe when the MOB is allowed to rule. The most frightening thing that I have heard this president say........"the will of the American people". The media dictates the will of the people by telling us what to be angry about, and the government is fast dictating the media. Forgotten wisdom.......believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear, and he who rules your emotions, rules you! Good luck America....we're going to need it.

Signal Always
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Signal Always 03/24/09 - 12:26 pm
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The hell? They just INCREASED

The hell? They just INCREASED 6 bucks a carton.

momofthree
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momofthree 03/24/09 - 01:01 pm
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HE HE HE HE, Obama

HE HE HE HE, Obama smokes............

Lp_J
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Lp_J 03/24/09 - 01:35 pm
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HE HE HE HE HE, So what at

HE HE HE HE HE, So what at least he wasnt an alcholic or a powder headlike someone else we all know

gnx
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gnx 03/24/09 - 01:49 pm
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Mutt - well stated!

Mutt - well stated!

thistownisunbelievable
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thistownisunbelievable 03/24/09 - 02:05 pm
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Nice LP. I see your Bush

Nice LP. I see your Bush derangement syndrome hasn't cleared up yet. It is also nice to see your sensitivity to a recovering alcoholic. Isn't tolerance great?

Signal Always
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Signal Always 03/24/09 - 02:17 pm
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He was a coke head, Lp. Maybe

He was a coke head, Lp. Maybe you should do a little more research before showing yourself to be an uninformed sheep. Here, since I'm sure you lack the intelligence, I'll do it for you. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/BothSidesAllSides/story?id=2773754

clyde1
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clyde1 03/24/09 - 02:37 pm
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Here's something for those of

Here's something for those of you to think about concerning smoking being a personal decision. If somebody has surgery for lung cancer, it is an involved process that has a lot of pre-surgical testing and post-surgical follow-up. Possibly radiation and chemo. The surgery itself is followed by a hospital stay of one to two weeks. A large number of lung cancer patients are now seniors who started smoking at a young age. Because they are receiving MediCare, who is paying for their medical bills? Us, through our tax dollars. Why shouldn't the government tax cigarettes more, then, to get a little bit of the money it's going to have to pay out for medical expenses?

Signal Always
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Signal Always 03/24/09 - 02:58 pm
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Cool, when do you want your

Cool, when do you want your scheduled Government Health Food Check? Afterall, heart attacks, high cholesterol, strokes, high BP, and many, many other things, are increased by a poor diet. So, using your logic, you'll wind up costing us. So, what day? Friday? Monday?

Signal Always
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Signal Always 03/24/09 - 02:59 pm
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I swear, I'm amazed at how

I swear, I'm amazed at how Constitutionally-ignorant some of you fools are.

jack
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jack 03/24/09 - 03:59 pm
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i am with you cara. they

i am with you cara. they should hike some taxes on alcohol since it's an unhealthy lifestyle choice...and while they're at it how bout they hike up some taxes on fast food. obesity is gettin crazy in our country!!!
Posted by latosha_5 on Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:18 AM....In the first place, the sin tax on alcohol is very hihg in federal, state and local taxes. Having a drink from time to time or even more (other than alcoholics) , is not like smoking which is a 24/7 habit/assiction.

jack
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jack 03/24/09 - 04:04 pm
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HE HE HE HE HE, So what at

HE HE HE HE HE, So what at least he wasnt an alcholic or a powder headlike someone else we all know
Posted by Lp_J on Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:35 PM....Your source that says Bush was an alcoholic or a "powder head". A DUI doesn't - alcoholic. You only have to read BimbObama's autobiography to know he is a crack head.

jack
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jack 03/24/09 - 04:05 pm
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As for me, I wish they would

As for me, I wish they would hike the tax to at least a buck a pack.

Lp_J
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Lp_J 03/24/09 - 04:24 pm
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coke head powder head its all

coke head powder head its all the same they can tax $2 a pack people still gonna smoke

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 03/24/09 - 05:01 pm
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I think taxing cigarettes

I think taxing cigarettes isn't picking on smokers, it's more like picking on addicts. Smokers are cool like James Dean, The Marlboro Man, John Wayne and other dead people. Addicts are ugly and stupid hippies. Smoking is a choice and an addiction which makes for an easy tax target. Smokers wouldn't smoke if they didn't like paying extra taxes.

TechLover
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TechLover 03/24/09 - 05:56 pm
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tobie: Wait until they tax

tobie: Wait until they tax your bacon and fatback. Then people who like bacon wouldn't eat it if they didn't like paying extra taxes. After all, we have to penalize unhealthy life choices. Don't forget the skydiving, skateboarding, motorcycle riding, etc taxes. "Addicts are ugly and stupid hippies"-with each post we see deeper into the lack of the mind that is PT. Those ugly and stupid hippies Rush, Betty Ford, etc.

egan
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egan 03/24/09 - 05:58 pm
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Sijnce it is not against the

Sijnce it is not against the law to grow tobacco, Grow your own. A lot of depression era people rolled their own.

fandango
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fandango 03/24/09 - 06:13 pm
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the should put a big tax on

the should put a big tax on daipers so poor ignornant people will stop breeding

RedQuinoa
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RedQuinoa 03/24/09 - 06:19 pm
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How ironically appropriate to

How ironically appropriate to enact this tax on fools on April Fool's Day.

DEVGRU
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DEVGRU 03/24/09 - 07:39 pm
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That's like putting a tax on

That's like putting a tax on hookers to stop fornication.

Signal Always
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Signal Always 03/24/09 - 09:16 pm
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I think all you morons,

I think all you morons, Republicans and Democrats alike, need to stay the hell away from law-abiding citizens such as myself. Seems you idiots like taxes on things you DON'T do, but get your panties in a wad over taxes placed on things you do. You're all a buncha f'n hypocrites, Repubs, Dems alike. Back off me! I'm probably already paying twice as much in taxes as you idiots anyway.

jamesj
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jamesj 03/24/09 - 10:30 pm
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The smokers will NOT pay for

The smokers will NOT pay for healthcare. They will pay bonuses to another aig type company.

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