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Larry Jukes said he remembers when he could buy 10 cigarette packs for $2.50.

Coloradan Larry Jukes says he's upset about the hike but doesn't expect it will persuade him to quit smoking.

Coloradan Larry Jukes says he’s upset about the hike but doesn’t expect it will persuade him to quit smoking.

But he’d now take the days when — just last month — he could buy his carton of choice for $49.

Thanks in part to the largest-ever federal cigarette tax increase — a nearly 62-cents-a-pack hike that starts Wednesday but was reflected in many prices earlier — Jukes on Tuesday paid more than $58 for a 10-pack carton at the Cigarette Store in Denver, Colorado.

That same store was selling it about $9 cheaper weeks ago. Jukes and other shoppers there said they feel stuck and taken advantage of.

“They’re picking on us poor people, the ones that smoke,” Jukes, a 65-year-old who has been smoking since he was a teen, said of the government. “They have been for years.” Video Watch Jukes argue smokers are unfairly targeted »

The cigarette excise tax that tobacco companies must pay the federal government rose Wednesday by 61.6 cents per pack, or $6.16 per carton. The tax now comes to about $10.10 per carton, or $1.01 per pack.

But major tobacco companies began incorporating that increase into their prices to wholesalers in March. And the companies, wholesalers and retailers in many cases gave prices a boost beyond the tax increase, in part to make up for an expected drop in sales caused by the hike, some of them said.

“We don’t anticipate another raise for Wednesday. The [March increase in prices] was the raise,” said Mary Szarmach, vice president at Colorado-based Cigarette Store Corp., which operates 85 stores in five states. “The manufacturers took what they needed beyond [the tax increase] to maintain their profit margin and take care of what they think will be diminishing sales. …

“And to maintain gross profit margin, retailers in general tacked on a little, too.” Video Watch how and why the tax hike was instituted »

If the increase does scare off customers, 83-year-old Gloria Egger isn’t likely to be one of them, she said. She said she’s upset at the government for raising the tax, but Egger, who has been smoking since she was 18, isn’t likely to quit. iReport.com: Share your thoughts on the tobacco tax increase

“I think it’s ridiculous. … They’re picking on smokers,” Egger said at the Denver store, where she bought two cartons Tuesday. “I think they’re trying to run the tobacco companies out of business.

“As old as I am, I’m not going to quit smoking, regardless of what they do.” See other reactions to the tax hike »

Federal taxes also are going up Wednesday on other tobacco products, including cigars. Federal per-cigar taxes, which vary based on weight and price, used to be capped at 4.9 cents but now are capped at 40.26 cents.

The tobacco tax hikes, which President Obama signed into law in February, will be used to finance an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP. The expansion, which will cost $35 million over five years, is expected to secure federally funded health care for an additional 4 million children.

Before the expansion, SCHIP covered almost 7 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid — the federal health insurance program for the poor — but can’t afford private insurance.

Dave Bowersox, who bought a box of Prime Time Little Cigars at the Denver store Tuesday, said he’s fine with the tobacco tax increases.

“I think tobacco, alcohol, that kind of stuff should be taxed instead of gasoline and food — things that are necessary for people to survive,” Bowersox said.

But near Orlando, Florida, cigar smoker Leah Fuller called the hikes “ridiculous.”

“There are [other] things that you could be targeting in the U.S. right now. Why the tobacco industry?” Fuller said. “I, personally, smoke cigars to relax. Why am I being punished for it?”

Jeff Borysiewicz, founder of Orlando-based Corona Cigar Co., said he believed the federal tax hike will cause cigar sales to drop. And he said the increase comes as Florida is considering a $1-per-cigar state tax hike. iReporters debate whether the change in price is fair »

Cigarettes, too, have been hit by state excise tax increases. Since January 2002, the average state cigarette tax has increased from 43 cents per pack to $1.21 per pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A conservative estimate for the average per-pack cigarette price in the U.S., based on data collected from states and territories at the end of 2008 and adjusted for the federal tax increase, is $4.80, the group’s Eric Lindblom said.

Tobacco company Philip Morris USA raised list prices for its major brands by about 71 cents per pack last month “in direct response to the tax increase,” said Bill Phelps, spokesman for Philip Morris’ parent company, Altria.

RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. on March 16 raised its cigarettes’ list prices by 41 to 44 cents per pack and, in many cases, reduced discounts to retailers, basically keeping “our pricing in line with the competition,” spokesman David Howard said.

“The federal tax increase was the primary driver,” Howard said.

Both companies said they expect a decrease in sales, with Howard noting industry analysts have estimated a drop of 6 percent to 8 percent. One factor in Philip Morris’ decision to increase list prices beyond the tax hike was the company’s expectation that the new tax level will decrease sales, Phelps said.

Not all U.S. sales declines would be due to smokers quitting, Phelps said.

“Tax increases create an incentive for people to bring cigarettes into the country illegally — [from places] where they don’t have to pay that higher tax,” Phelps said.

Nick Hamad, a tobacco store owner in Seattle, Washington, said he thinks the tax will ruin the American tobacco industry.

“If we lose the sales, the state will lose the revenue,” he said. “We will be hurt, the state will be hurt and eventually the consumers are being hurt.”

As for Jukes, higher prices probably won’t force him to quit smoking, he said.

“I’ve been smoking about 50 years,” Jukes said to which the makers of Smoke Away say, “should anyone have any sympathy for Jukes or other smokers for that matter? The answer is No. And if you want to quit smoking, then a good first step is to contact the makers of Smoke Away on their site or call 1-800-611-5930

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the world, and yet it causes one in ten deaths among adults. In 2005, tobacco caused 5.4 million deaths, or an average of one death every six seconds. At the current rate, the death toll is projected to reach more than eight million annually by 2030 and a total of up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.
Last month the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced World No Tobacco Day to highlight the dangers of cigarettes and their effects on younger generations. The WHO also revealed shocking statistics, such as tobacco kills 50 per cent of its users. This means, of the 1.3 billion smokers alive today, 650 million will be killed by tobacco.

1. Why is smoking addictive?
Nicotine is a psychoactive drug, which the body accepts like a “normal” messenger substance stimulating the electrical activity of the brain. It has calming effects, especially at times of stress. Smoking is a physical addiction, which is almost as strong as that of heroin, since nicotine also induces structural changes in the brain of smokers. When nicotine is suddenly withdrawn, normal functions in the brain and other parts of the body are disturbed resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
2. What damage does smoking do to the body?
Smoking causes many premature deaths from diseases that are largely preventable:Heart disease: Smoking is responsible for 30 per cent of all heart attacks and cardiovascular deaths. Cancer: At least 30 per cent of all cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Lung disease: More than 80 per cent of all lung problems, mainly chronic bronchitis and emphysema can be avoided by not smoking. Peripheral artery disease: Smoking is the main cause of peripheral artery occlusion, and this is extremely dangerous when associated with diabetes.
Premature ageing of the skin: It also causes premature wrinkling of the skin of the face. On average, smokers look five years older than non-smokers of the same age.

Others: It also contributes to stomach ulcers and osteoporosis, reduces female fertility and causes premature births and infant death.

3. Why can smoking be even worse for men?
Younger and middle-aged men are at a higher risk for premature arteriosclerosis and heart attacks than women of the same age. Therefore, male gender may be considered a risk factor in itself. Smoking does not just add on some risk, it multiplies the chances of developing heart disease.
As smoking causes damage to blood vessels, it also impairs erections in middle-aged and older men and may affect the quality of their sperm. It can have the effect of sedating sperm and can impair their mobility.

4. What are the best ways to quit smoking?
You mean other than Smoke Away? All kidding aside, Self-help is, in fact, the only way to quit smoking. Others can give advice and support, but in the end it is up to the individual. To succeed you must have sufficient motivation to carry yourself through the task ahead. At least two-thirds of smokers are likely to find it difficult to give up smoking. However, it is not their fault that they find it difficult. They do not continue smoking because they are weak-willed or irresponsible, but because they are addicted. There are various motivations for trying to quit smoking:
The most important is concern for health and well-being. The onset of minor ailments, such as coughs, sore throats, breathlessness, indigestion, and feeling generally less well and less fit, are early signs that the body has had enough.
Some smokers come to resent the feeling of being controlled by their need to smoke, and are motivated to stop by their desire to regain control and self-mastery.
To help make up your mind about stopping, make a list of all the reasons that are important for you. Make a similar list of all the positive benefits of smoking you will miss and any withdrawal difficulties you anticipate when you stop. Weigh up the lists and tell yourself that any suffering you may endure will be temporary and may last only a few weeks
You must be prepared to work hard at stopping smoking. Here are the steps to take:
Plan to stop on a particular day. Choose a time when you are not under too much pressure from other tasks and when you can avoid situations that you know will make it more difficult. Don’t put it off for too long unless you have to. Make plans to keep away from smokers and other tempting situations after you have stopped.
Plan to stop smoking completely on your target day. Cutting down gradually is less effective. Telling too many people that you are going to stop is not always helpful. To be constantly asked how you are getting along can bring the subject to your mind just when you are learning not to think about it
Prepare on a small card a list of your reasons for stopping. You may need to have this in your pocket or close at hand if things get difficult and your motivation falters after you have stopped. On the night before your target day, make sure all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters are removed from your home. Of course the makers of Smoke Away would love for you to try our product, but we realize that sometimes you have to go through hell with a lot of different methods before you come to see us. That’s ok. Just as long as you quit in the end!

5. How can quitting smoking be made easier?
There is no drug for smoking that can cure your problem for you without you having to make any effort. However, there are some treatments that you can use to aid your self-help:
Counseling and support, either in single sessions or in groups. It is also important that partners do not smoke or stop smoking at the same time. Otherwise, the smoker gets “re-infected” time and again.
Hypnosis and acupuncture may help some people, but not everyone is susceptible to these techniques.
Nicotine substitution like patches or chewing gum can help overcoming the habit of lighting a cigarette, and the dose can be tapered down over time.
No one is born as a smoker. In all drug addictions, psychosocial factors determine the initial exposures. Addiction may subsequently develop if the drug has effects that people like or find rewarding. Younger people may think that it is “cool” to smoke because it makes them appear more “grown-up”. Ultimately, it is up to you to finally decide to quit smoking, on your terms.

WASHINGTON — Daniel Williams decided he’d listen to his girlfriend and his 8-year-old son and finally quit smoking, with the help of a new prescription drug called Chantix.

He started taking the medication, and a couple of nights later, as he was driving his pickup truck on a country road in Louisiana, Williams suddenly swerved left.

His girlfriend, Melinda Lofton, who was with him, later told him that his eyes had rolled back in his head and that it had seemed as if he was frozen at the wheel, accelerating.

Moments later, they were in a bayou, struggling to escape the murky water, Williams said.

“Since I was a kid, never had anything like this ever happened before,” he said.

“It never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. And all the tests I’ve taken say I have nothing wrong with me at all.”

The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices last week linked Chantix to more than two dozen highway accidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration, saying the mishaps may have resulted from such drug side effects as seizures.

The FDA had earlier issued a warning about suicidal thoughts and suicides among patients taking Chantix and is now evaluating whether it needs to expand and strengthen that precaution.

Pfizer, the drug’s manufacturer, said that as early as May of last year, it had added a warning to the prescribing literature for Chantix that patients should exercise caution when driving or operating machinery until they know how the medication affects them.

But such admonitions apparently didn’t get much notice from busy doctors. Even some government transportation agencies missed them.

The Federal Aviation Administration continued, until last week, to list the drug as approved for pilots. The federal truck safety agency was also unaware of the risk.

“That is a problem,” said Janet Woodcock, head of the FDA’s drug evaluation center, adding that her office needs to find ways to communicate safety information more effectively.

The military, which bans Chantix for flight and missile crews, is considering whether other precautions are needed, Pentagon officials said.

Woodcock said the FDA believes the medication should remain on the market as an option for smokers trying to quit.

Approved two years ago, it differs from other smoking-cessation drugs by acting directly at sites in the brain affected by nicotine, blocking the pleasure that comes from smoking as well as the cravings.

But Williams, 28, said he was surprised that a drug he had hoped would help turn him into a healthier person instead, he believes, caused an accident in which he could have been seriously hurt, even killed.

Lofton is still struggling with a neck injury she suffered.

Williams, a telephone service technician, lives near Rayville, La., between Shreveport and the Mississippi River.

He said he went to see his doctor last year for help quitting his nearly two-pack-a-day habit. He’d started smoking in high school and had failed in previous attempts to quit.

But he knew people who recommended Chantix.

They were talking about how good it was supposed to be, and it seemed like the right thing to do since I was trying to quit,” Williams said.

The crash occurred July 15, two days after he started taking Chantix.

He said the last thing he remembers is heading home after checking on the house of a friend who was out of town.

“I woke up in the bayou, with water coming into the truck,” he said. “I didn’t know where I was.”

Lofton had gotten out first and was on the bank, calling to him. He followed the sound of her voice and paddled to safety.

Williams said he had no history of seizures and does not drink alcohol.

His doctor, who has treated Williams from childhood, made the connection to Chantix.

Williams said he was considering suing Pfizer. His lawyer, Kristian Rasmussen of Birmingham, Ala., said he was aware of at least one other Chantix accident, involving a deliveryman who fell out of a moving truck.

The FDA has received more than 3,000 reports of serious problems involving Chantix, but Pfizer said that had to be put into context, since more than 5 million people in the U.S. had taken the medication.

The company said that no direct cause and effect had been proved between the drug and the problems.

The FDA is most concerned about reports of mental health problems, including more than 400 cases involving Chantix users who reported suicidal thoughts and more than 30 who killed themselves.

Yet many patients report success with the medication.

Kathy MacInnis, 44, of Kingston, Mass., said she had been smoking for more than 30 years and quit on New Year’s Day.

“Without Chantix, I had never been able to quit,” she said. “It just put me in a calm place.”

She was smoking close to two packs a day when her 12-year-old daughter confronted her.

“She came home from school and said her health teacher asked her if her parents smoked, because she could smell it on her,” MacInnis said. “That was my turning point.”

MacInnis videotaped her story for Pfizer but she said the company did not pay her other than covering the costs of traveling to New York for an interview session.

She reported no unpleasant side effects while taking the medication, only vivid dreams that some call “Chantix dreams.”

“The first few days, I kind of felt funny,” said MacInnis. “You kind of feel high.”

 

Why not Smoke Away?

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A law extending a smoking ban in Turkey to most enclosed areas — including taxis, ferries and shopping malls — came into effect Monday in the nicotine-addicted nation.

As of midnight, outdoor smoking was also banned in locations such as stadiums and playgrounds. A ban on lighting up in bars, restaurants and coffeehouses will be implemented next year.

Smoking was already barred on buses and airplanes and in larger offices. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government expanded the ban to most enclosed places as part of an attempt to reduce smoking rates in the country and the effects of second-hand smoke.

Around 40 percent of Turks over the age of 15 are smokers, consuming around 17 million packs a day, according to Yesilay, an organization devoted to fighting alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse.

The government says around 160,000 people die annually in Turkey from smoking-related ailments.

The law, passed by Parliament in March, calls for a fine of 50 Turkish lira (about $40) for people who light up in smoke-free areas.

But enforcing smoking bans has in the past been difficult and it is not unusual to see people lighting up next to no-smoking signs in public places.

Taxi driver Huseyin Erdogan, who is not related to the prime minister, says he does not think the bans will help him get off cigarettes.

“I don’t know how much of a deterrent these laws will be,” he said. “I cannot quit smoking, I’ll only quit when I go to my grave. I have to smoke.”

According to the World Health Organization, nearly two-thirds of the world’s smokers live in 10 countries led by China and India and followed by Indonesia, Russia, the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Germany and Turkey.

Turkey is also among the world’s main tobacco growers along with China, India, the U.S. and Brazil, and one of the top exporters. Several major cigarette producers blend Turkish tobacco in their products.

“To smoke like a Turk” is a common expression in many European countries to describe someone who smokes a lot, and hookah smoking — a legacy of the Ottoman era — has experienced a revival with several hookah cafes opening up in major Turkish cities over the past decade.

This just in. If you think by allowing people to smoke is good for your business, you’re sorely mistaken! Studies of restaurants and bars in Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C. all show business up since they banned smoking. Chicago went smoke free the beginning of this year.

In the United States, 23 states have already banned smoking in restaurants and bars. A number of other states, including Michigan, are considering it. While many bar and restaurant owners say a smoking ban would hurt business, that appears to not be the case at all.

So you think there’s nothing wrong with a little second hand smoke?

According to a case report by a Michigan State University physician, published in the February edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine,  a woman arrived at a bar in Michigan for her shift as a waitress and, according to co-workers, seemed happy and healthy. About 15 or 20 minutes later she collapsed and within a few minutes died.

“This is the first reported acute asthma death associated with work-related ETS,” said Kenneth Rosenman, an MSU professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “Recent studies of air quality and asthma among bar and restaurant workers before and after smoking bans support this association.”

In 2006, the surgeon general’s report concluded that ETS causes coronary heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. But at that time there was little hard evidence linking ETS to the exacerbation of asthma in adults. ETS for the uninitiated is shorthand for environmental tobacco smoke or “second hand smoke”.

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