Cigarette tax shifting smokers' strategies - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cigarette tax shifting smokers' strategies

by Bryan Goettel

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - It's been nearly three weeks since a 62 cent tax hike on tobacco. Quitline Iowa saw a spike in phone calls leading up to the increase. But in many places it's not hurting business as much as it is changing business.

The price for a puff is going up, but at John's Grocery in Iowa City, it hasn't meant business going down.

"We have, of course, a lot more people complaining about the price of cigarettes, but I can't say that I've seen the sale of tobacco decrease that often," said Peggy Rauch, shift manager at the store.

Rauch has more than just a business perspective and that's why she's not surprised.

"I'm a smoker and I still buy them so it doesn't completely shock me," said Rauch.

"I think for most people it doesn't make a big difference," said smoker Tay Stetts.

But it is changing what people smoke.

"It just makes me shop for bargains a little bit more," said Vince Anderson, who's been smoking for 14 years.

"I smoke Marlboro Red king size and when my funds are low I smoke Pall Mall," said longtime smoker Emile Harris.

The bargain hunting has gotten so bad at John's Grocery, they had to put up a sign that reads:

"Please do not ask cashiers to scan to find a cigarette price that you like."

"Cause it was a problem where people were like, well, how much are these? How much are those?" said Rauch.

Even at $7-8 a pack, cigarettes keep coming off the shelves. But at some point these smokers can see themselves saying enough is enough.

"If they continue to raise at increments like this I couldn't see smoking for more than a couple more years," said Anderson.

"If they were ten dollars a pack, I don't live in New York City, I can't afford that," said Rauch.

Several smokers say they have also noticed more people rolling their own cigarettes. So while the steeper prices are forcing some to quit, others are just getting more creative.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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