- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Customers bombarded Bluegrass Discount Tobacco Outlet in Williamstown on Tuesday, March 31, trying to buy up anything they could.
“I came in to stock up on it,” said Jody Bush of Owenton. “Stuff was flying out the door. I’m hoping this lasts me a few months.”
Smokers were lining up to purchase tobacco products before state and federal tax increases dramatically raised prices on April 1.
Kentucky legislators doubled the state cigarette tax alone from 30 to 60 cents during the recent session.
Bush, who purchased 14 bags of roll-your-own tobacco, said he was upset when he heard about increase.
“If they keep raising tobacco prices and taxes, pretty soon they might as well legalize marijuana,” he said. “I don’t do drugs, but I think it’s cheaper to buy a joint than it is to buy tobacco.”
Troy Beckelhimer of Berry walked out of the store carrying two boxes filled with 12 one-pound bags of tobacco and 50 boxes of tobacco tubes.
“I saved $300 just for the tobacco I bought,” he said. “The tubes are going up $1.69 and I bought 50 boxes of them. So, I almost saved $400 by buying it today.”
With the cost of tobacco rising and the list of cities banning smoking getting longer, Beckelhimer said he was tired of being treated like a “third-rate citizen.”
“(The increased taxes) will affect how much I buy,” he said. “I plan on growing some tobacco plants of my own to supplement it this year.”
During the weeks leading up to the tax increase, Dennis Kenner, owner of Bluegrass Discount Tobacco Outlet in Williamstown and Falmouth, said the stores have seen a 70 to 75 percent jump over a normal week of sales.
“Since we started notifying our customers about the increase, it’s gradually taken off and just kept going right up to the last moment,” he said. “Each week kept getting bigger. Monday (two days before the increase) was a record sales day in Williamstown and Tuesday doubled that day.”
The biggest seller has been roll-your-own tobacco, Kenner said.
Before the tax increase a small bag cost around $6.
It has now more than tripled to almost $20, Kenner said.
A large bag also went from $15 to $47, he said.
“What people are reacting to is that this is the largest excise tax increase in the history of the United States of any category,” Kenner said. “There may even be more trouble on the horizon.
“At the start, we anticipate a 20-percent drop in the number of people that come in the door,” he said. “Eventually, that will taper back to about 10 percent. My concern is not for us. It’s more of a concern for how the poorer people are going to afford this.”
With tobacco products getting more expensive, some people may decide to try to kick the habit altogether.
Registration for local smoking cessation classes through the Northern Kentucky Health Department this spring has at least doubled.
Officials are contemplating opening a third session because of the popularity of the sessions at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Grant County and St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas.
The 13-week Cooper- Clayton smoking cessation program combines a weekly support group with nicotine replacement therapy, including the nicotine patch or gum.
The program focuses on the behaviors that lead people to smoke, and how those behaviors can be changed, said Michelle Eversole, health department senior health educator.
“Participants record their patterns of smoking and then we discuss ways to replace cigarettes with alternative behaviors,” she said. “It may be getting up and getting their shower first thing instead of sitting and watching the news and having coffee and a cigarette. We teach them stress management techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, general self-care to help them get through life’s challenges. And we work on relapse prevention plans so they identify potential triggers and what they will do instead of smoking.”
About 45 percent of smokers who finish the Cooper-Clayton program quit, Eversole said.
In comparison, 10 percent are successful quitting cold turkey, 13 to 15 percent quit using counseling and no medication, 23 percent are successful with medication alone and 28 percent use medication and counseling.
The program is typically offered in January, April and September.
There is no cost for the classes, but participants must purchase the nicotine replacement therapy, if used.
For more information or to register for the program, go to www.nkyhealth.org or call the Kentucky Cancer Program at 859-442-3525 or the health department at 859-341-4264.