$2 Tax Per Package of Cigarettes Proposed

FEBRUARY 4, 2004 -- Posted at:11:30pm

JONESBORO, AR - Those who light up want to snuff out a proposed $2.00 per package federal tax on cigarettes.

"I think it's outrageous. I don't like it. I don't like it at all," said Tony Chappelear, a smoker for most of the 11 years since he first tried it at 15 years of age.

A plan was announced yesterday by three former surgeons general. The doctors think that if the increase is approved at least five million smokers will quit.

Chappelear admitted, "Had a cigarette, had another one and it just started from there."

Chappelear knows smoking is unhealthy, and so has the rest of America ever since 1964, when the surgeon general at that time, Doctor Luther Terry made the announcement.

Dr. Terry explained, "It is the judgement of the committee that cigarette smoking contributes substantially to mortality."

The National Action Plan for Tobacco Cessation is a 10 point plan endorsed by other health advocates and asks for additional tobacco research, better doctor training and an extensive media campaign explaining the dangers of smoking.

"Burning tobacco creates three to four thousand chemical species," said Dr. Brad Rodu, "and it's the absorption of those species day in, day out.. 10, 20, 30 cigarettes a day that causes all of the tobacco related diseases."

The proposal also asks for a nationwide counseling line. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson pledged more than $25 million will be dedicated to the toll-free, national quitline.

"I think it's harder to quit, than pay the extra money," said Chappelear.

Seth Sullins, another smoker, said, "Prices have risen, not $2, yet in New York City, they're $7 a pack, and everyone still seems to be smoking there. Me myself personally, they raise it $2 dollars, I'll quit smoking."

If the new tax is approved, 50% of the expected $14 billion collected would go towards paying for the plan. Regardless if it's passed, the smoker support line will be established by year's end.

In Chicago, Cook County Commissioners have tentatively approved an $.82 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. That proposal wouldn't take effect until the county approves its 2004 budget, which is expected to happen in the next few weeks.