The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Proposed tobacco tax increase welcomed by some Iowa City smokers

Some Iowa City smokers welcome a proposed increase in the federal tax on cigarettes provided the money goes to its current proposed destination.

President Obama proposed a 94-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax as a part of his budget last week to help finance the “Preschool for All” initiative — a partnership with states to provide preschool to 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income households.

One health-care expert said research shows the proposed tax increase would affect young smokers the most by either deterring them from starting or making the price difficult enough to curb the amount young smokers can buy.

“[The effect] is particularly true among the young if you can increase the cost — it has a chilliness effect on people from the start,” said Christopher Atchison, the director of the University of Iowa Hygienic Lab.

Atchison, who was also director of the Department of Public Health from 1991-1999, said he would generally prefer to see the revenue of such programs used to help smokers quit smoking.

The increase would push the federal cigarette tax to $1.95 per pack. Thomas Connolly, the owner of the Tobacco Bowl, 111 S. Dubuque St., said the increase would be a “pretty stiff hike,” pushing some of his customers over their spending limits.

“Usually, I lose about 5 percent in sales for every $1 taxes increase,” he said.

Connolly said he usually sees an increase in alternative forms of tobacco depending on what the tax targets. This could include anything from electric cigarettes to cigars and chewing tobacco.

Mark Bennett, a local smoker and UI employee, said unless the tax was larger in scale, it wouldn’t affect his current smoking habits.

“The tax is a joke,” he said. “It’s not going to affect whether I smoke or not, unless the tax is outrageously large.”

Bennett did welcome the taxes intended destination for preschool funding or other societal benefits although he believes the government has yet to prove it can spend money properly.

“If it’s going to help out people in need, then [the tax] is fine,” he said. “Roads, it’s fine. Child education, schools, teachers, I’m all for it. It should help as much of the country as possible, not just a small portion of people.”

UI sophomore Thomas Law said the comparison between the costs of cigarettes in Iowa versus China leaves him wanting to buy the same number of tobacco products.

“[The difference] creates a gap for my feelings … but it would really depend on how much money I have,” he said.

Another smoker agreed with Bennett, saying the benefit to preschool education or other worthy causes was worth the possible increase in cost.

“As a member of society, I don’t mind paying taxes for good causes,” said Quinn Knobbe.

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