Posted by Colby Rogers
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The largest federal tobacco tax hike in U.S. history is now in effect for all tobacco products, forcing smokers to pay 62 cents more per pack of cigarettes.
Cigarette maker Altria, which is headquartered in Richmond, raised the prices on its products last month in anticipation of the tax jump and to absorb any hit the company could have taken from the higher prices.
Because of this, prices on cigarettes Wednesday were at the same level as before the tax hike went into effect.
Federal officials sold the tax increase as a way to help pay for children's health insurance, saying it would raise more than $33 billion over the next five years.
But the latest increase came as a source of frustration for smokers, many of whom stocked up on cigarettes well in advance of the tax hike.
"It's like, at what point it enough enough?" said smoker Darryl Emerson. "Because the price keeps going up, I wonder when it's going to stop - just like gas."
Health officials are hopeful people will back away from smoking and maybe kick the habit altogether. But cigarette store owner Kishan Devani says he hasn't seen a drop in business.
"I did not see any difference in the last three weeks," Devani said. "I don't see any drastic drop in business, but all said and done, we have to diversify. This market - I'm not sure what the future holds for it."