June 3, 2008
Smokers think twice about lighting up
Some consider quitting as state cigarette tax increases today to $2.75 per pack
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Dale Harrington, right, rings up Andrew Kane of Moravia, who is buying four bags of loose tobacco at The Daily Grind on Main Street Monday morning. Kane says he rolls his own cigarettes for about $12 per carton rather than buying commercial cigarettes for more than $50 a carton. State tax on cigarettes increased $1.50 to $2.75 per pack today.
Mary Whitney has been smoking on and off for 16 years, buying packs of cigarettes and rolling her own once a month when she has to pay all her bills.
As the state tax on cigarettes increases $1.25 today, Whitney, 34, of East Freetown, said it is time to quit for good.
“A lot of people are saying they’re quitting,” said Carol Paley, a manager at the Red Apple gas station on Tompkins Street. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The tax has increased from $1.50 a pack to $2.75 a pack, the highest state tax in the United States.
The tax hike was passed in this year’s state budget and state officials expect the increase to bring in $265 million a year.
Jean Shields, who works with the Tobacco Free Cortland program at the county Health Department, said she is extremely glad the cost of cigarettes will increase today, on average to more than $6 a pack.
“I see the damage it does to people, to kids,” Shields said. “I hope it persuades the youth they can’t afford it and find some other positive way to relieve stress.”
Shields said stress is one of the biggest reasons people smoke. Children also smoke because they think it’s cool, she said.
“We have to show them it’s not cool; that there are other things they can do,”
Shields is passionate about getting people to quit smoking for a reason, though. She has had a loved one die due to smoking.
“My husband died of complications from smoking in 2002,” she said. “He had been smoking since he was 8 years old.” Shield’s husband was 79 when he died.
But Chris Spadolini, owner of the Daily Grind, said he just sees people beginning to roll their own cigarettes more or go to the Onondaga Indian reservation in Nedrow, just south of Syracuse.
Spadolini said it costs about $12 to roll your own carton of cigarettes, as opposed to about $50 a carton for manufactured cigarettes.
“Sales for the roll-your-own supplies have picked up. It’s maybe a 10-percent increase but I think it will go up more,” Spadolini said.
Andrew Kane, 34, of Moravia, said he has been rolling his own cigarettes for about five years now since the cost of cigarettes began to increase.
“I have convinced my family and friends to switch over too with the prices the way they are,” Kane said. “It’s a little work, but it’s worth it with the amount your saving.”
Kane said he has been smoking for 15 years and used to go up to the Onondaga reservation to buy cigarettes. But then switched to rolling his own cigarettes and noticed the saving right away.
“Tobacco is the bulk of my business. We will lose some customers to the Indian reservation,” Spadolini said. “None of these (tax) increases apply to them (the Indian tobacco vendors). Everyone is going to suffer because of it. Gas is cheaper there too.”
The state can collect tax on American Indian sales to non-Indians, but has chosen not to.
Paley, the manager at the Red Apple, said she also figures a lot of people will be going to Nedrow to buy their cigarettes or to Pennsylvania, where the state tax is lower.
Rick Deragon, 53, of Nedrow, said the Onondaga Nation Smoke Shop is always full of people.
“It’s always packed, especially Friday and Saturday,” Deragon said, adding that cigarettes are cheaper and the smoke shop offers more brands.
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