OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Public health advocates expect more Oklahoma residents to try quitting smoking as they face the state's cigarette tax increase that began this month.
As many as 18,700 smokers in Oklahoma are expected to try quitting as they begin to pay an extra dollar in taxes on each pack of cigarettes or cigarillos, the Oklahoman reported . The increase brings the state's total cigarette tax to $2.03 per pack, moving Oklahoma from the 35th-highest state to 15th in tobacco taxes.
John Woods is the executive director of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. He expects an increase in calls to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, which offers coaching for those looking to quit smoking.
Calls to the helpline just about doubled compared to the previous year the last time Oklahoma increased cigarette taxes in 2009, Woods said.
The tax increase might also lead to fewer teenagers becoming smokers, he said. About 17,300 teens who otherwise would've become daily smokers are expected not to develop an addiction because of the higher tax, according to a report from the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and Tobacconomics.
Younger people tend to not have much disposable income, and 18-year-old smokers are less likely to share cigarettes with younger friends as the price increases, Woods said.
"The price point can be a difference maker," he said.
Opponents of the increase have argued that cigarette taxes place heavier burdens on people who can't afford to pay. But the increase is vital for improving the health of smokers who are likely to be poor or have a mental illness due to stressful lives and marketing by the tobacco industry that targets vulnerable groups, said Jennifer Vidrine, director of the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center.
"It's become more heavily concentrated in groups that have fewer resources," she said.
The tobacco research center also offers treatment for those looking to quit smoking.