Hefty increase in cigarette tax kicks in April 1

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

Smokers will be forced to dig much deeper into their pockets to afford their cigarettes come April 1.

That’s when a federal excise tax on cigarettes will increase from the current 39 cents per pack to $1.01 per pack. Those funds will be used to pay for the expansion of the public health insurance program for lower income children.

Unfortunately for smokers, the federal tax hike comes on the heels of a steep price increase on cigarettes by manufacturer Philip Morris.

“Philip Morris raised their prices by 90 cents a pack on March 9,” said Cathy Terrell manager of the Kangaroo BP gas station and convenience store located on Highway 25 in Columbiana.

Cost of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes was $4.38 prior to the Philip Morris price increase earlier this month. After April 1, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes will cost $6.29.

She said she thinks the hefty increase in the cost of cigarettes will prompt many of her customers to work hard to kick their habits.

“I know that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said. “We had expected the price of a carton of cigarettes to go up $6 or so, but it looks like they will go up about $10.”

Mark Hardy of Shelby has been a smoker for about seven years, and he thinks the price and tax increases on cigarettes could backfire.

“Obviously, I think it’s ridiculous. I’m trying to quit, and this is encouragement to quit. But if enough people quit smoking over this, it could end up costing the government and Philip Morris money. Like I said, this is a big enough incentive to quit,” Hardy said.