Smokers feel the burn as cigarette prices rise

By Christopher Blake
April 30, 2009

“It’s awful. Smoking is not worth it anymore,” Temple University junior Devin Armstrong, said.

Smokers across the nation are struggling to put their cigarette butts out since the largest increase ever in federal tobacco tax has been implemented this April.

“The high prices make me angry. The government has raised the prices so high and now I don’t even want to bother with them, I don’t want to buy them,” Armstrong said.

The new federal tax is $1.01 per pack, up from 39 cents. Smokers in Pennsylvania will pay $2.36 in federal and state taxes for a pack of cigarettes.

New Jersey has the second highest tobacco taxes in the country at $3.59 a pack.

Congress predicts to raise $32.8 billion over the next 4.5 years to expand the federally funded State Children’s Health Insurance Program. This gives coverage to middle class families earning too much to receive Medicaid and not enough to afford private health coverage.

“Cigarettes went from four something to six dollars a pack literally overnight. I went to the store one morning to get a pack of cigarettes. The employee at the gas station said six dollars, I gave him a ten, looked down at my change and only then did I process the now outrageous cost of cigarettes,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong explained that as a smoker of a pack-a-day he was used to paying low prices for cigarettes compared with higher prices for cigars.

“I smoke near a pack-a-day. That’s five or six dollars everyday coming out of my pocket,” Armstrong said. “Cigarettes aren’t affordable anymore.”

Cabrini freshman and political science major Sean Corrigan smokes a pack of cigarettes a week and although this is low compared to Armstrong, he also has begun to feel the effect of the taxes.

“The other night I only had five dollars and the Marlboro Lights that I wanted were six dollars and change. Instead of not buying any pack I changed to Gold Coast Light,” Corrigan said, “It turned out that I like them just as much.”

Although Corrigan was used to purchasing Marlboro or Camel Lights he has accepted the tax and transitioned to a cheaper brand without hesitation.

However, to Corrigan smoking is not essential. If prices continue to rise he will cease all of his cigarette purchases.

“I don’t let smoking control my life so if the prices continue to be a burden I’m not going to pay for them,” Corrigan said.

Armstrong agrees. “They’re going to raise the taxes on cigarettes so much that you’re going to smoke less or quit smoking altogether.”

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Christopher Blake

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