Are Smokers Being Asked To Pay An Unfair Share? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Are Smokers Being Asked To Pay An Unfair Share?

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If you're a cigarette smoker, you're about to pay even more money. A new federal tax goes into effect on April 1. Some health advocates think a higher price per pack might force smokers to kick the habit, but there are questions about whether smokers are targeted too often.

Sandy Mabry just paid a little over $64 for a carton, and the price is about to go up again. So at what point will Sandy quit?

"When I run out of money," she joked.

Cigarette makers say smoking bans and higher taxes forced them to raise prices this month, and sellers say they have no choice but to pass the price hike on to customers.

"A pack of Marlborough we sold for $4.19 two days ago. Now it's $4.99 a pack plus tax," Rocky Farida of Par Liquor said.

Starting April 1, federal taxes on cigarettes through President Obama's stimulus package will jump another 61 cents a pack to help pay health care costs for children in low-income families.

"You can raise it to $10 a pack and I'm sure people will still buy them," a smoker said.

Smokers say they're addicts, and many admit they have no interest in quitting. So they'll just cut back on buying other things, which certainly won't help retailers who are already struggling - even ones who sell cigarettes.

"Overall our business is down as it is. Hopefully things will turn around," Farida said.

Statistics show that most smokers are in lower income households. Sandy fears at some point higher prices will mean higher crime rates.

"I think you're going to find stores probably being robbed for cigarettes more than money in the cash register," Sandy said.

California's smoking rate ranks 49th in the nation. Only Utah has a smaller percentage of smokers. Ask people why they quit, and they cite health concerns over cost. That, and they just got tired of being hassled. It's not easy being a smoker in California.

"It's not illegal, it's not against the law. I used to be very considerate of people who didn't smoke - I would move. But it's gotten to the point where we're like a little segregated group," Sandy said.

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