Oklahoma smokers getting ready for an increase in the price of tobacco

Thursday, December 30th 2004, 9:59 am
By: News On 6

When the ball drops on New Years Eve, the price of tobacco in Oklahoma will go up. That's because Oklahoma's cigarette tax takes effect January 1st.

News on 6 reporter Omar Villafranca has more on what retailers and doctors are saying about the tax hike. Anti-smoking groups hope the extra cost drives people to kick the habit. Tobacco retailers hope the tax won't kick them out of business. There' s a line outside the Firewalker Smoke Shop in Tulsa.

The cash registers are burning up as smokers rush to stock up before price increase. Smokeshop owner George Carter: "Yesterday and today we started feeling it. And we've stocked up for it, you know and we look for a big sale between now and Friday."

Come Saturday, Oklahoma's new tobacco tax becomes law, pushing the price of a pack of cigarettes up almost 55-cents. A carton could go up as much as $8. That's not including the price hike cigarette makers are adding to offset the tax.

Anti-smoking advocates working with the state say the price will cause certain puffers to quit. Dr. Stephanie Cobble:" Everyone's going to be hit hard. As I mentioned before, the youth and the pregnant women are probably going to be hit the hardest. They are most likely to quit smoking because of the expense."

Dr. Cobble hopes a combination of higher prices and New Year's resolutions will cause 20,000 people in the state to kick the habit. Cigarette vendors say they'll take a financial hit, but will still have customers. George Carter: "No, your smokers are going to smoke. Now you got your borderline smokers, people that, you know, they'll quit, but your smokers are going to smoke. I don't care how high they get, they're going to smoke." Under the current deal, the price per pack of smokes will go up 55-cents. But that could change.

The Creek Nation received a 30-day extension and is still negotiating with the state. If they get a better deal, it could change the price per pack. Smoke shops are keeping a close eye on those negotiations.