Cigarette Tax Increase

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Here at Cig-O-Rama, if you're looking for a deal, all you've got to do is pick out your tobacco and hit that button.

Down below, out come machine-rolled cigarettes that will cost you half the price of what you'd pay for a carton of brand-name smokes. Greg Haskins says business here is booming and it could get even busier.

A new bill would double Florida's cigarette tax, a move Greg predicts would give him more value-conscious customers. Not to mention accomplish the bill's main goal of making it tougher for teens to smoke.

"I think it'll be a better incentive for the young adolescents to try to stop that, because, you know, it's going to be more money for them and it'll be harder to find it," says Greg Haskins, who opposes the tax increase.

Which may already be happening in the wake Florida's move to hike the cigarette tax by a buck a pack in 2009. Statewide, one-fifth fewer high schoolers are lighting up.

When lawmakers hiked the tax 2 1/2 years ago, Florida began raking in a billion dollars a year. Raising a billion more is a big selling point here, but there's no guarantee the money jar will fill up again.

If the tax were to climb to $2.34 a pack, many smokers could find keeping their habit going downright unaffordable, making that billion-dollar mark hard to reach. And then, there are folks like Ann Ladato, who's been puffing away for 30 years.

"If I had to buy regular cigarettes at that price, I'd have to leave town to buy them. Go to Georgia, or buy them when I go home for a visit in Louisiana," says Ann Ladato, a smoker.

But, for people who don't have the time or the money to travel, a higher tax could mean some tough new choices. Like switching to what Greg calls his cheaper, healthier blend of tobacco.

That's a good thing for them, you know, and also for us. And potentially, for countless kids about to fall into the trap of what can be a deadly habit. The bill faces a pretty high hurdle. The capitol's majority republicans, along with Governor Scott, have made it clear.

They're opposed to any and all new taxes, even though they voted overwhelmingly to hike the cigarette tax back in 2009.

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