State taxes on smokes may increase by $1

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Mike Siwinski will buy ten packs of cigarettes this week.

It doesn't make him proud.

"It's just an addiction," said Siwinski. "It hasn't made me sick enough to stop I guess."

He hopes the threat of a shrinking bank account will work.

If a proposal to tack on another dollar to make the state's cigarette tax $2.33 is approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, his weekly smokes budget will go from $50 to $60.

"There's a lot of pressure on people who smoke these days," said Siwinski.

Varying degrees of pressure are put on by state governments. Often, the higher cigarette taxes in a state, the fewer smokers there are.

In low-tax Missouri, where state taxes are .17 cents, 91 packs are purchased per person per year.

New Yorkers, who are taxed at $4.35 per pack, buy 18 packs per person. And in Florida, which has the 26th highest taxes at $1.33, people buy around fifty packs a year.

Dr. David Soria agrees with the bill's sponsors that taxes can be most effective in persuading youngsters not to start.

"Certainly if the taxes are increased, it'll make someone think twice, a student, a younger adult, go to the drug store, to buy a pack of cigarettes," said Soria.

The bill says that after Florida passed a dollar-a-pack tax increase in 2009, the number of high schoolers smoking decreased by over 25 percent.

But getting smokers to stop is trickier. It's not just taxes.

Dylan Carson of Boynton Beach has a story about a time he saw a $10 pack in Chicago.

"I said it's too much for me to buy a pack of cigarettes, the next day I went and bought a pack," said Carson.

He can't help but say the state is out of line to tax something they know people are addicted to.

"When they're always going to need them, they know you're not going to quit for a dollar extra," said Carson.

Another dollar a pack would make Florida the tenth-highest taxed state for cigarettes in the country.

There are identical bills moving through each house of the legislature.

They still have several committees to get through before they can be voted on by the full legislature.


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