Smokers will pay higher prices starting April 1st

PARAGOULD/CORNING, AR (KAIT) - Smokers in Region 8 and across the country will be paying even higher prices for tobacco products April 1st when a new federal tobacco tax takes effect. The federal government will raise the tax 62 cents. This comes after Arkansas' tax increased in early March.

"I think this whole thing is ridiculous," said Teresa Bray.

Bray said she's been a smoker for 45 years and has never seen a price increase like she has over the last several months. Tobacco companies raised prices in March and the new taxes have made the increase even higher.

"It's usually just been a gradual increase of 5-10 cents," said Wayne Dillon, who has been a smoker for 40 years.

The new federal tax is aimed at generating revenue for a children's insurance program. The Arkansas tax is designed to build funds for a state-wide trauma network.

Dillon said Arkansas needs a trauma system. He was treated at the Med in Memphis last year after having a motorcycle accident. While he said a trauma network is needed, smokers and tobacco addicts shouldn't be the only ones paying the bill.

"It's a good thing to have. It saves lives, but I don't think that just cigarettes smokers should pay for it," said Dillon. "I'd like to see no one smoking because of it. I'd like to not smoke but I think they're overdoing it."

Bray works in a convenience store in Corning. She said customers who used to purchase cigarettes at her store now cross state lines. Tobacco prices are cheaper in Missouri along the Arkansas/Missouri state line.

"I've noticed a big decrease in the sales of cigarettes and tobacco. A lot of people are going to Missouri to buy their cigarettes and tobacco, which there is a pretty big difference in the price," said Bray. "The Marlboros are selling for 50-something dollars here for a carton right at the moment, almost 60. They are selling for like, 30-something dollars in Missouri."

The total tax by the federal government on cigarettes is $1.01. That price is one reason Bray and Dillon said the government has gone too far.

"If it continues to go up, I don't see how people will afford it. I mean the average person because at a pack a day, that's about 30-35 dollars a week and that adds up," said Dillon.

"I don't like the idea because they're just targeting one group of people. They're targeting the people that smoke and the people that are non-smokers, they're not paying anything. So to me, this is unfair," said Bray. "I'm very disturbed by it. A lot of people around town are disturbed by it. They feel they are being targeted as well."

"They're not targeting the drinkers. They're not targeting the non-smokers. It's the smokers and it's unfair. It's very unfair," said Bray.

Bray said the government is trying to pay for items and programs through addiction, which she said seems unethical.

"When you've smoked as long as my husband and I, and a lot of other people, it's hard to quite. You try patches. Patches don't work," said Bray. "They're making cigarettes an outrageous price so that we can't afford them."

"I've got a health issue that's an incentive but the price is a big incentive. I think that they're just going up way too much. They can't get all the taxes off of something like cigarettes," said Dillon.