tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves

Tax increase forces longtime smokers to reevaluate habit

It wasn’t a 35-year smoker who recently won the statewide Quit 2 Win contest in Indiana. According to David Ayers, a spokesman for the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency, it was a 20-year-old mother who had been smoking since she was 9. She adopted the habit from a parent, and her husband also smoked.

Ayers said the young woman quit cold turkey — and for her effort, she won $2,500 in Gov. Mitch Daniel’s campaign to turn Hoosier smokers into ex-smokers.

The governor’s challenge was not enough, though, to convince many hardcore smokers to kick the habit. But a 62-cent increase in the federal excise tax on cigarettes might just do the trick. On April 1, the 39-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes became a total of $1.01. This was the second hit smokers have taken since July 2007 when the state levied a 99.5-cent tax per pack.

“The cigarette taxes suck,” said Jennifer Denny. “Most smokers will go to the cheaper brands, no matter how bad they taste. I even roll my own. It can save you a couple dollars.”

On Monday, Denny was talking to manager Debbie Justus of Discount Tobacco in Mooresville, who said she wished the government would find some other products to tax. She believes it is hurting small business owners and punishing people who are buying a legal product.

“Business has slowed down. People are cutting back or buying cigarettes by the pack instead of the carton,” Justus said. “On average, carton prices have gone up about $8. The tax didn’t hit the chewing tobacco as bad. We sell rolling papers and filters for rolling.”

Dave Brar, manager of the Marathon Food Center on Indiana Street, said March 30 was one of his busiest days, However, he said a top contract with cigarette and chewing tobacco companies allows him to sell them cheaper — that’s because he buys a higher number of products. His low-end cigarettes run a little over $3 a pack, with premium brands close to $7 a pack with the new tax.

Brar has another moneymaker, though. He sells lunches, chicken curry with rice, meatloaf, sandwiches and pasta salads.

“I’m going to add a drive-up window so customers can buy take-out,” he said.

Two longtime smokers were talking inside Brar’s store.

Jim McWhorter said he’s been smoking for 35 years and believes the new tax will force a lot of people to quit or cut down.

“I used to smoke two packs a day, but now I’m buying a pack or less every couple of days. If I’m busy, I don’t smoke that many,” he said.

McWhorter added that buying by the carton keeps him from making constant trips for cigarettes and also saves him a few dollars.

His friend, Ron Sumner, said he’s been successful in nearly quitting by taking one of the new drugs that blocks the mental urge to smoke. “I’m slowing down, and I plan to quit. I’m too old to smoke,” Sumner said.

Another discount tobacco store, Smoker’s Host in Martinsville, is selling customers more generic, cheaper brands. Manager Donna Greeson said she hasn’t yet noticed much change in purchase volume. People pretty much emptied her store, stocking up before April 1.

“We’re seeing more credit card use, and customers have been buying multiple cartons, which are up only $6 or $7,” Greeson said. She added that rolling your own cigarettes can be an expensive proposition if you smoke a lot. Those products have been taxed as well. She said the regular-size bags of tobacco have gone up $17, and even the smaller boxes of rolling tobacco have increased to $3.89 from $1.50.

Vickey Feeney, manager at Circle K, a Shell branded station near Waverly, said two weeks prior to April 1, there was an increase from the tobacco manufacturers. In response, the company chose to go ahead and add the tax.

“People were already used to paying $5 a pack when the tax went into effect, and we had a special of $1 off on three packs in place before April 1,” Feeney said. She added that Circle K’s cost spread is from $3.66 for low-end cigarettes to $5.21 a pack.

The Meijer convenience store and gas station added the tax three weeks ago, according to employee Amantha Richards. She said the move was to avoid a rush on products right before the tax was scheduled to go into effect.

“Some people were confused, though,” Richards said. “They thought the tax was going up again on April 1, so they were already used to the higher price.”

Richards said their cigarettes average $4.50 to $5 a pack with the tax included. The low-end brand is staying steady at $3.94, and the premium cigarettes are selling for around $6 a pack.

Tax part of children’s health insurance bill

The increased federal tax on cigarettes was the result of an action by President Barack Obama. On Feb. 4, he signed the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. A portion of that bill calls for raising taxes on cigars and other tobacco products. Former President George W. Bush had vetoed it two times.

Jennifer Walker of Ready, Set, Quit Tobacco said when the state tax was levied in 2007, over a year’s time, there was more than a 20 percent drop in cigarette consumption. She is hoping this new tax will have the same effect.

Walker has been active in Morgan County, trying to get government officials to ban smoking in local restaurants and in the workplace. She has personal reasons for being involved.

“My cousin was a smoker and only 42 years old when he died of lung cancer. He left behind three children,” Walker said.

The activist said she becomes incensed when she sees how tobacco companies target youth in their ad campaigns, luring a whole new generation to a lifelong habit.

“There are fancy new flavored brands like chocolate or strawberry,” Walker said. “Some of them are slim and dainty, targeted toward young girls, or they come in a pink or fancy-colored box. We call them Barbie cigarettes.”

Karla Sneegas, director of the ITPC, said what was really telling about big tobacco’s reaction to the federal tax was the fact that they raised prices on their products two to three weeks before it went into effect.

“Some companies raised their prices as much as 70 cents to offset any profit losses with the new tax,” Sneegas said. “That shows you where their interests lie, and it’s not with their customers.”

ITCP was created by the Indiana General Assembly to manage Indiana’s part of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement money by helping Hoosiers quit their habit. Sneegas said the ITPC’s most effective tool in helping smokers quit is its tobacco hotline.

Adults 18 and over can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) and get fully-trained quitting coaches on the line. They also get two weeks worth of free nicotine-replacement products like the gum or the patch to help them get started. They can also access the Web site at www.indianatobaccoquitline.net to get tips on quitting.

Even though Indiana ranks sixth in the nation on its number of adult smokers, Sneegas said ITPC’s research has found that 70 percent of them want to quit. They just need powerful tools to motivate them. A hit in the pocketbook during tough economic times is already causing them to think twice about continuing to smoke.

“When the tobacco companies raised their prices, calls to our hotline tripled,” Sneegas said. “As of last week, the number quadrupled.”

Ayers said he and Sneegas are fresh from a public health conference held this week at IUPUI in Indianapolis by the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Public Health Association and the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Public Health Office of Public Health Practice.

The event was in conjunction with National Public Health Week 2009, which ran April 6-12. The purpose of the conference was to raise awareness nationally and locally of public health’s role in securing a healthy America and healthier Hoosiers. Ayres said there was an entire workshop dedicated to smoking cessation.

Sneegas said there has never been a better time to quit — with help from nicotine replacement products and seven new medicines that work on the mental and physical aspects of tobacco addiction.

“It is a disease,” Sneegas said. “And it’s like any other condition such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. You might go off of your medicine for a while, but then you go back and try again to get it under control. It might take two or three tries before that happens. If you’ve been smoke-free for five years and you start smoking again, you just start over — maybe try another method.”

Source: Reporter-times

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