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Smokers React to Proposed Tobacco Tax

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EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon lawmakers are considering raising taxes on cigarettes by a dollar a pack–that would bump it up to $2.18.

According to health advocates, raising taxes on tobacco products is an effective way to reduce tobacco use.

Smokers aren’t convinced that raising taxes is the best way to get rid of tobacco use. Some tobacco users say it’s been done before, but it didn’t change their minds.

“I don’t think I’d really change there. I’d probably just keep smoking,” said smoker William Fidler.

Public health experts disagree.

“We know very clearly that there’s less use of tobacco when the cost goes up,” said Patrick Luedtke, Public Health Spokesman.

According to Lane County Public Health, Oregon is still playing catch-up with the issue of tobacco taxes.

“Many states have raised their tobacco taxes, and they have seen the tobacco use rates go down. They have seen the health of their populations go up,” Luedtke said.

It’s not just health that lawmakers are worried about. It’s also financial. Lane County Public Health says the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses is very expensive, nearly $130 million a year.

“We want to make sure that the costs of those products to society are capture somehow. Taxes are one way to capture that,” Luedtke said.

But health experts emphasized that revenue is not the primary motivation for raising tobacco taxes. According to lane county public health– there’s no way to accurately predict how much revenue additional taxes would bring in. They say the motivation for taxes is much more focused on getting people to kick the habit.

“This might be something that will push them into making that choice to say, ‘Today’s my quit day, I’m actually going to quit,’” Luedtke said.

Smokers are less optimistic that raising the price will keep cigarettes from selling.

“People are going to keep smoking. It’s not really going change anything. People are going to get more and more upset about it,” Fidler said.

Workers at Lane County Public Health say that raising the price of cigarettes also reduces the chances of minors to start smoking. They noted that there are plenty of cheap and even free programs to help smokers kick the habit.

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