The cost of one of America’s deadliest habits has increased over the last few months. A federal tax increase, which went into effect April 1, has pushed tobacco companies to significantly raise their prices. A pack of Marlboro Lights at the Fowler Avenue Publix Super Market across the street from USF costs more than $5 after taxes.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” said freshman Chloe Lykes. “I’m going to have to quit soon.”
Like many other smokers, Lykes figures this is as good a time as any to kick the habit.
“I’ve been trying to quit for a while, so hopefully this will be the breaking point,” she said.
Lykes is among what Sen. Ted Deutch said could be as many as 100,000 Floridians projected to quit smoking because of the increased cost, according to Florida Today. Similar price increases have led to decreased tobacco consumption in the past, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“We’re hoping it doesn’t raise revenue, we’re hoping it reduces consumption,” said Sen. Thad Altman, chairman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, signed into law in February of this year, raised the per-pack tax on cigarettes from 39 cents to $1.01 — an immense increase put into place to fund a large government expansion of health insurance for children, according to taxfoundation.org.
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the new tax does not apply only to cigarettes: Excises have increased for smokeless tobacco, pipes and rolling papers.
Major tobacco companies were expected to raise prices in reaction to the April 1 tax increase, but some did so a month in advance. Philip Morris USA, the top U.S. tobacco company and maker of Marlboro, raised its prices by 70 to 80 cents per pack in early March.
USF student Alex Roeder, who works at a Sweetbay in Apollo Beach, said he has heard a variety of angry remarks about high prices from customers making tobacco purchases.
“I actually have been getting a lot of mixed comments, but the two most common responses are ‘Hopefully this will get me to finally quit’ and ‘I’m going to find this cheaper somewhere else,'” he said.
Roeder said that while higher costs may have increased smokers’ agitation, he does not think they will necessarily curb tobacco use.
“I personally don’t think it will get people to quit. People are going to smoke until they get a real health scare or someone close to them does,” he said. “If anything, this is going to increase the number of people that will try and steal tobacco products to avoid the taxes.”
However, not all tobacco users are feeling the hurt.
“I’ve dipped for a little over a year, and since Skoal and Copenhagen have had a recent price cut, it doesn’t really affect me in a financial way,” said freshman Robert Slipkovic. ABC News affiliate KXLY-AM reported that the chewing tobacco companies lowered their prices this year, becoming more competitive by offering a cheaper alternative to cigarettes.
Another student, Jon Ouverson, said skyrocketing prices are unfair to people who simply need a vice.
“I work and attend school, so my life is pretty hectic,” he said. “When I get home, I just want to have a beer and a few smokes to help me relax.”
Though the perils of tobacco use are well known, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call it the “leading cause of preventable death” in the United States and a major contributor to heart disease, cancer and lung disease, Ouverson said he disagrees with the government’s decision to impose such heavy taxes on tobacco products.
“We know cigarettes are bad for us, but it should be our decision to quit,” he said. “The Obama administration has made tobacco a luxury that is getting much more difficult to afford. The problem is that most of us are addicted and we can’t just stop. So where does that leave us?”