Smokers, it's time to start setting aside more cash for your habit, or to quit it altogether: On Saturday, the voter-approved tax increase of $2 per pack of cigarettes kicks in, making your cancer sticks costlier than ever.
And before you assume that vaping will get you out of the new fees, be aware that as of Saturday, "products like electronic cigarettes and e-liquids" will also face the increased tax, "based on their wholesale cost" the Davis Enterprise reports.
San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who sponsored the initiative, said last May that the intention of the law was to curb smoking, not generate dough. “If you raise the price, fewer young people will start smoking or ever get addicted to a substance that will ruin their health and cause them to die earlier," he said in May. "That’s the biggest selling point.”
Steyer might not be wrong: According to as noted by NPR last September, a 2014 report from the US Surgeon General suggested that "For every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, smoking goes down 4 percent."
And as the smoking rate in CA is pretty low — about 12 percent, NPR reports, the extra two bucks might be the incentive some puffers need to kick the habit. "It may be that a price increase that will follow Prop. 56 will be enough to just get these light, intermittent smokers to just say, 'Forget it,' " UCSF professor and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education Stanton Glantz opines.
According to opponents, however, the tax will just "increase black market sales of cigarettes," Reuters reports. Tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds spent at around $90 million to defeat Prop 56, also claiming that "just 13 percent (of the new tax revenue) goes to tobacco prevention and control programs," opposition spokesperson Beth Miller said. All in all, the tax is expected to generate $1 billion to $1.4 billion in new tax revenues for the state, most of it going to Medi-Cal.
Smokers who persist after this weekend won't just be paying more in taxes (and, one assumes, their mortality), as tobacco makers also raised prices on their products in anticipation of this weekend's increase. Investopedia reports that beginning March 19, smokes from major manufacturers went up by eight cents per pack, "a direct move to minimize the hit to their profits, as smokers absorb price increases. This willingness from consumers to pay for cigarettes and tobacco products is another reason the government does so well in taxing them."
One person who appears willing to pay the extra fees is Dolores Park smoker Austin Thomas. In a video taken last fall by Mission Local, Thomas characterized the increase as "f**king bulls**t, man," but said he "would just deal with it."