Cigarette Tax and ‘No Smoking Bill’: East Tennesseans Weigh In

By: Allison Hunt
By: Allison Hunt

Knoxville (WVLT) - You could pay 42 cents more a pack to light up, if a cigarette tax increase passes the Tennessee House.

The House already has passed a bill to ban most smoking indoors. Governor Bredesen says he'll sign it. So how do smokers feel about both?

Volunteer TV’s Allison Hunt spoke with some smokers who say they'll pay the price.

Most smokers we talked to say, they'll quit when they want, not when a tax, or a ban is put on their habit, even if their habit's unhealthy.

"I'll probably still smoke, that's it, I mean I'm a smoker, I'm not ready to give it up yet,” Debra Tate has been smoking for more than 20 years. She says even an increase that could more than triple Tennessee's cigarette tax will not get her to quit. "I smoke two packs a day, three dollars a pack, so six dollars a day, I don't even think about it, it's just in my budget."

But organizations dedicated to raising awareness on the dangers of smoking say the tax increase could be positive.

"It could become a financial burden for someone to purchase cigarettes at that point and be forced or more encouraged to do something about their own health,” Johnnita Tyler-Tillery, from American Heart Association.

And the health of others. The American Heart Association says Tennessee’s bill that bans most indoor smoking is a step toward healthier lifestyles for everyone.

"Second hand smoke is very detrimental to the health of anyone who is exposed to it and it takes that exposure away from a person in the workplace who otherwise may not have any control over the situation,” says Tyler-Tillery.

Some people say they look forward to a smoke-free environment.

(Deborah Nelson) "It's a smokers problem and I think that the system is being fair about it,” says Deborah Nelson.

But many smokers say it's 'unfair' and they don't like to be singled out for lighting up.

"There are a lot of non-smokers that could be taxed on things too, so just because I want to smoke doesn't mean I should pay for other programs that I don't benefit from,” says Mike Wirick.

So what will they do?

"What everybody else does, buck up and smoke anyway,” Wirick says.

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