No Foolin’: California Smokers Out Another $2 A Pack Under New Tax

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — If you smoke, your habit is going to get a bit more expensive starting Saturday.

That’s when voter-approved Proposition 56 takes effect, raising the tax on cigarettes and other nicotine products sold in California by $2 – jumping from 87 cents to $2.87.

Orlando Lemons, who lives in Turlock, has been smoking for 25 years. His doctor says he’s in good health. So, he has no intention of stopping – unless the $2 tax increase gets too expensive.

”I probably will (quit),” said Lemons, When asked why, he responded, “Money wise!” with a big laugh.

That’s good news for his wife, Claudette, who’s been trying to get him to cut down.

“My husband smokes. So, hey, (if) he realizes he has to keep paying for them, he will stop!” she said with a smile big.

It’s projected that the new tax will generate over a $1 billion in revenue for this year. The revenue has been earmarked for tobacco prevention programs and research on tobacco-related diseases, like lung disease and cancer. The bulk of the money goes to fund Medi-Cal, to help lower income Californians suffering from tobacco-related issues.

Medical research shows, that more than 40,000 Californians die each year due to smoking or second-hand smoke. Even a 10-percent increase in the price of cigarettes is shown to lead to a 4-percent drop in use by adults, and up to a 7-percent decrease by teens.

Proposition 56 got a huge support from big names in the medical field such the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. But Lemons isn’t convinced the price hike will get people to quit.

“I figure people have to make up their own minds. If they are going to smoke, they are going to smoke, regardless of the price,” he said.

Others, like Elizabeth Bido, who is also a smoker, think the tax punishes people who smoke, adding that smoking is not illegal.

“It’s like charging criminals to stay on the street. Or charging them to stay in jail, or anything else like that. It makes no sense,” said Bido

“It’s a lot of money,” said AJ Singh, of the increased costs of cigarettes, which will now sell between $8 and $9 in California.

As a business man, who owns several gas station and convenience stores across Northern California, Singh is concerned how the $2 tax will impact business. Friday night, before midnight, his employees at his Arco gas station on Golden Gate Boulevard, will begin inventory of their tobacco products as they come into compliance with the new state rules.

He expects business to take a dip, but he thinks over time, smokers will be back.

“It’s definitely going to impact business, as far as tobacco is concerned. But this has been happening for the past 35 years. It started with 49 cents a pack and it’s almost close to $8. It’ hasn’t stopped business,” said Singh.

It’s not just cigarettes. The new tax impacts all tobacco related products such as cigars, hookahs and e-cigarettes.

Currently, California ranks 37th in terms of taxing tobacco in the U.S.. After April 1, it will jump to ninth.

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