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Apr 11, 2013 11:14 PM by Tony Spehar - tspehar@koaa.com

President Obama proposes 94-cent cigarette tax hike

Among numerous ideas in President Obama's proposed budget is a plan to add a 94-cent-a-pack tax for cigarette sales, it's an idea that's creating some controversy.

The proposed tax would help fund early childhood education programs and it's hoped that it will inspire smokers to kick the habit and reduce health care costs. The reaction from smokers in Colorado Springs was mixed on Thursday.

"It's a habit that I already pay for and if I have to pay a little bit extra to help somebody else out then I'm alright with that," said smoker Josh Wloczewski.

However others had some serious problems with the tax hike.

"Taxation just because we have a vice is not the way to go," said smoker David Tomek.

Local businesses that sell cigarettes also expressed major concerns about what the increased tax would do to them.

"The taxes are already insane on this industry and all it's going to do is kill the industry, it's going to affect small businessmen," explained Tharmesh Jiva, owner of Smoker City. "Over 50-percent of our sales are in cigarettes and that would definitely hurt us."

Jiva said cigarettes are already heavily taxed and he's seen business slow whenever increased taxation raises prices. Currently the federal tax on cigarettes is $1.01 and additionally Colorado adds an 84-cent tax. If President Obama's proposed tax is added then taxes on cigarettes sales would reach nearly $3 a pack in Colorado.

Nationally anti-smoking groups praised the proposal and expressed hope it would reduce smoking rates across the country. But, some local experts doubted whether the tax would encourage people to stop smoking.

"I think it's a great thought, but in reality studies have shown that it doesn't really work," described Anna Hagney, a respiratory therapist and smoking cessation councilor at Memorial Health System. "Increasing taxes on smoking or even death tolls don't affect people quitting smoking."

Hagney said she believed tax increases have been shown to have little effect on smoking rates.

"An addict is going to get what an addict needs and it doesn't matter how much you have to pay for it," she explained.

 

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