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. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Smokers fuming over cigarette tax hike

Steve Hoffman, of Lighthouse Point, feels a bit bullied these days.

He’s a smoker, a shrinking class of Floridians that’s feeling overtaxed since a $1 hike on a pack of cigarettes hit convenience stores across the state.

“They’re picking on a small group of people — not small, but small in comparison,” said Hoffman, 60. “They think it’s just so easy to quit. It’s not. Now they’re trying to really just stick it to us.”

Florida’s $1-a-pack cigarette tax kicked in Wednesday, the first such hike in two decades.

Smokers are fuming.

Diane Mulvey, of Gulf Stream, wrote the governor arguing the tax would only “cause more grief and aggravation to the household budget.”

“If you believe that strongly in stopping people from smoking, then just ban it altogether,” she wrote. “Taxing is about money. Banning it supports your belief that it is something that should not be happening.”

At one point this spring, as legislators were passing the tobacco tax, the governor’s office tallied 1,730 e-mails objecting to the idea. The American Cancer Society turned in 30,000 petitions arguing the opposite: the higher tax will lower smoking rates and save lives.

Many smokers who wrote to Gov. Charlie Crist wondered why other vices, such as alcohol or fatty foods, weren’t targeted. One proposed new taxes on expensive cars, boats over 20 feet and maid services - taxes that wouldn’t be “directly aimed” at the poor and middle class.

Alfred Fernandes had a typically blunt message. The Cape Coral resident said it’s easy to pass such a tax when the 80 percent of Floridians who don’t smoke get a “free ride.”

“The tax will hit my wife and I in excess of $1,000 a year,” he wrote. “Gov. Crist and the super majority of legislators, $0.”

Gone are the days when Florida smokers enjoyed some of the lowest taxes in the nation.

And the beefed-up state levy comes after the federal government increased its tobacco tax by 62 cents a pack, to $1.01, in April.

Taken together, the taxes have caused cigarette prices to soar, to $6.99 for a pack of Marlboros at some stores.

For legislators and health care advocates, the higher price of cigarettes is exactly the point. They say higher prices will lead to fewer smokers, particularly teen smokers, and better public health - not to mention more than $900 million for Medicaid and cancer research.

Dr. Paul Shiffman, a University of Pittsburgh researcher who has studied smokers’ attempts to quit, said higher prices are a powerful incentive.

“Often, it can be kind of the last straw - they’ve been meaning to quit and this really puts them over the top,” he said. “The important thing is, to quit successfully, many people are going to need help.”

Florida has about 2. 7 million smokers, the state Department of Health reports. That number - about 17 percent of the adult population — has been in steady decline for more than a decade.

The politics of smoking and Big Tobacco have shifted, too. Nowhere was that more evident than in Tallahassee, where Republicans have been casually rejecting bids to raise the cigarette tax for a decade.

This year, though, a severe budget crisis coupled with polls that showed taxing tobacco was widely popular, among Republicans and Democrats alike. Only one group opposed the idea: smokers.

Indeed, cash-strapped legislators from an array of state capitols are turning to smokers as a politically palatable revenue source. Arkansas raised its cigarette tax 56 cents. California is considering a $1.50-per-pack hike. Even the governor in the heart of tobacco country, North Carolina, proposed a $1 increase.

“They are being targeted, let’s be frank about it,” said Rep. Evan Jenne, D- Dania Beach, one of the few smokers in the state Legislature. Despite his occasional smoking habit, Jenne co-sponsored the cigarette tax bill, arguing “you’d be hard-pressed to find many other legal products that create the costs and the deaths that cigarette do.”

But Jenne said he understands why smokers feel singled out. “Let’s be honest, tobacco is an easy whipping boy,” he said. “The polls were overwhelming.”

That doesn’t sit well with smokers. Hoffman, for his part, calls the tax little more than a money grab and says he isn’t convinced many will quit. He noted he picked up the habit when he was 12 years old, in 1962.

“When I was a kid, every actor in the movies was smoking,” he said. “There were billboards and TV commercials. It was cool to smoke, because Humphrey Bogart smoked. I’m not saying people can’t quit. People do. But I’ve tried, and it’s hard. (The habit) doesn’t leave you.”

Josh Hafenbrack can be reached at [email protected] or 850-224-6214.
© Copyright: Sun-sentinel

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