Smokers rush to tobacco shops before Wednesday's tax hike

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - Tobacco products were flying off the shelves on Tuesday at the Tobacco Shop in Livingston. Many people were stocking-up before $1.01 federal tax increase hits Wednesday.

"I'm probably going to buy me four cartons today, before they go sky-rocketing tomorrow," said Peggy Truett, smoker.

Like many, Truett is bracing for the tabacco tax hike. She has been an avid smoker since 1955. Wednesday will mark the single largest tobacco tax increase ever. Dollars aside, Truett said the tobacco wins.

"I live on a fixed-income, a retirement and social security," said Truett. "So it's going to hurt because I'm still going to be smoking."

In the midst of a recession, the government and medical groups said raising the taxes on tobacco products could help persuade people to quit. People like Jessie McCarty have been hooked on tobacco for so long that quitting seems out of the question. For health reasons, McCarty underwent a tracheotomy.

"It's unnecessary," said McCarty. "There's other ways to get money besides raising the price of cigarettes."

Rick Nance works in healthcare. He is worried the new tax increase misses the mark.

"I really don't believe that the taxes they say they're putting on the cigarette tax will actually funnel its way down to the medical system," said Nance.

Alton Leblanc agrees. "It's been said and I don't disagree, said Leblanc, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, Tribal Administrator. "The government has now become a partner."

The new tax on tobacco is expected to expand health coverage for more than four million low income children.