California has decided to raise the tax imposed on tobacco products by about $2 dollars per pack. This new tax shows a 40 percent hike in the price of cigarette packs, and some smokers will have to pay almost $10 dollars to buy one.

This decision, which was set to come into effect on April 1, will certainly have a financial impact on Californian tobacco-consumers. Some might even consider quitting cigarettes for good. Retailers are anticipating a drop in cigarette sales for the upcoming months. The money collected by the new tax will be used to fund tobacco-related research.

Cigarette Smokers
Californian smokers will now pay $10 for a package of cigarettes. Image credit: Country Detail

“In every instance, when a state has increased its tobacco tax, there’s been a reduction in smoking. It’s been proven time and time again. It’s incontrovertible,” said Jim Knox, vice president of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Inc. in California.

Californian smokers refuse to pay the new tax

California took that decision in November 2016 under Proposition 56. The change in the tobacco tax was set to be effective from April 1, 2017, on. Now, tobacco consumers will have to pay a $2.87 tax per pack, which is a 40 percent hike in the price of tobacco products. The previous tax was set at 87 cents per pack. This new measure includes both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

The 10-pack cartoon will cost about $28.70. This becomes the highest tax for cigarettes in the history of California since the implementation of the tax, back in 1959. Now, smokers are having a dilemma between paying and leaving an expensive habit.

“The reality is most people who smoke cigarettes don’t enjoy smoking cigarettes. Two-thirds of people who smoke would like to quit. And this offers a great opportunity to quit,” said Knox.

For example, Michael Whittington, a smoker, said he was resolved to quit cigarette after he finished his current pack because he could not afford to pay two extra dollars for them.

Similar was the statement made by Citrus Heights, a 21-year-old smoker, who said that this tax means she would have to pay an extra $120 a month in order to cover her and her husband’s tobacco habit.

The new $2.87 tobacco tax becomes the ninth highest cigarette tax in the country. Number one is New York’s $4.35 tax per cigarette pack.

“I cannot do the extra $2 a pack. It’s too much of a financial burden as a single parent. … It’s a really good motivation to quit,” said Sacramento County resident, Caitlin Holloway.

Cigarette sales are going to decline

This measure is definitely hitting the sales of tobacco products, which is going to affect the retailers inevitably.  However, this might only be for a while, because most smokers can’t quit even if they want to. They physically need to keep up their habit no matter what. However, some people might cut down the number of cigarettes they smoke a day.

Menthol-flavored cigarettes
“Of course we’re going to lose sales, but maybe only for a while,” stated Doris Cruz, manager of Circle K store, which is located in Placentia. Image credit: Tumblr.

Abdelmessih considers that tobacco sales will go down by 30 to 40 percent during the first few months after the decision made by the State of California. Nonetheless, sales will increase gradually.

Why was this new tax imposed?

The main reason to implement this tobacco tax is to reduce the tobacco-dependent population, in order to decrease tobacco-related diseases. However, the tax has another aim. Given to the fact that most smokers won’t quit their unhealthy habit, the money raised by the new tax will go to Medi-Cal, which is a health plan funded by the state and federal governments for people with low income. The objective is to raise up to $1.4 billion a year with the new tax.

The money will be used to pay for more doctors. As well, it will be used to fund research projects for tobacco-related diseases such as cancer.

The current number of American citizens that smoke cigarettes is below 40 million. Image credit: Shutterstock / ABC 7 News

It is important to highlight that with this new tax the government of California is trying to discourage young people from starting to smoke. In fact, this is not the only measure taken in the State to prevent new smokers. Last year, another legal anti-tobacco measure was taken, when California increased the age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.

The government also tightened loopholes on workplace smoking bans and made K-12 campuses completely smoke-free. As well, including e-cigarettes among the products that will have the new tax will serve as a deterrent for kids and teens, since e-cigarettes are extremely popular among this population.

According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, the teens who start e-cigarettes are three times more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes within a year. 67 percent of current smokers in California start by the age of 18, according to the state Department of Public Health surveys.

Source: The Sacramento Bee