SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Smoking can be an expensive habit, and now California lawmakers are proposing tacking on another $2 with a new tobacco tax.
It’s a measure some smokers say unfairly targets them, but others say could force them to quit.
Kim Filosena’s next nicotine fix could come with a bit hit to her pocketbook.
“It would hurt. It hurts now financially. So, it would just hurt even more,” she said.
The 15-year smoker spends about $24 a week on cigarettes, an expense that could increase by $2 a pack if new legislation is approved.
“We arei n the lower half in the country in terms of our tobacco tax. We haven’t raised it in over a decade,” said state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).
He said an increased tax would not only support prevention programs, but it’s a proven strategy to reduce smoking, especially among those under the age of 18.
“If you can get people past their early 20s without smoking, they will not start smoking,” he said. “We have an opportunity through this bill to raise $1.5 billion to help pay for health care services and prevention programs related to tobacco.”
California ranks 32nd in the country with a tobacco tax of just 87 cents. Compare that to New York, which has the highest in the nation at $4.35. Missouri has the lowest at 17 cents per pack of 20 cigarettes.
While tobacco companies have yet to publicly respond to the bill, longtime smokers like Edward Angel and Nadine Hines say it’s incentive to quit.
“It would definitely deter me, yes. $7 a pack? Nuh-uh, that’s not going to happen,” Hines said.
But for Filosena, it’s a habit that a higher tax won’t be successful in snuffing out.
“It’s just one of those habits that is so hard to break. It takes more of an intervention I think than a higher rate,” she said.