Opinions on cigarette tax split by ‘smokes’

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 29, 2004

Much like the legislators who found themselves divided Wednesdaywhen the House defeated a bill to raise cigarette taxes, Brookhavenresidents are also split.

“I’m with the governor — veto it,” said Richard Thibodeaux, asmoker who set the pace during an unofficial poll by The DAILYLEADER that found residents mostly split along a smoking line.

The House killed a bill that would have raised cigarette taxesby 9 cents-per-pack to pay for operating seven mental health crisiscenters across the state. Six of the crisis centers have been builtbut stand unmanned and the seventh is being built inBrookhaven.

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Most smokers opposed the raise while most non-smokers supportedit.

“It should have passed. It’s better for health care,” saidNathan Grenn, who did not state his smoking preference.

Mitzi Jordan, a non-smoker, was blunt in her assessment of thedebate.

“My opinion on smoking is that if you want to kill yourself youcan,” she said. “It should have passed. They could make the moneygo where it needs to go rather than somewhere else.”

Hilda Rucks also supported the cigarette tax, but admitted shewould support the raise regardless of the money’s destination. Shesaid the crisis centers were OK with her, but she wasn’t concernedwith how the tax money was spent.

“They should raise taxes, especially on cigarettes, becausethey’re bad for your health,” she said. “If they get so high, maybepeople will quit smoking.”

Corey Sykes of Enterprise, an occasional smoker, took the middleroad. He said he would not oppose a cigarette tax hike if thereason was strong enough, but he didn’t believe the crisis centersranked among those reasons.

“I guess it’s good it was defeated because cigarettes won’t costas much,” he said. “That’s not really a good enough cause for me topay more when I do smoke. I smoke every once in awhile, but I trynot to smoke much.”

Samuel Johnson also considered supporting the bill, but decidedagainst it.

“I would say no because I smoke,” he said. “It would need to bea good reason if they were to decide to raise cigarette taxes, andthis isn’t it.”

Johnson, who admitted he needed to quit smoking, said there werealready too many and too much taxes people were forced to pay.

“They need to cut down on taxes on a lot of things though,” hesaid, highlighting land taxes.

“It seems you never finish paying on a house because you stillhave the land taxes to pay each year,” Johnson said.

Deanna Lambert didn’t hesitate in her assessment of thedebate.

“As a smoker I’m glad it was defeated,” she said. “I know thereare things that are needed, but I depend on and needcigarettes.”

Lambert said the appropriate funding for the crisis centers,which she said should be funded, could be found elsewhere if thelegislature looked closely enough. There were other programs andagencies that could be cut to provide the necessary funding, shesaid.

“The money needs to come from appropriate places and not justjacking up the price of everything,” she said, citing growingconcern with the cost of gasoline and groceries. “People have toeat and get from place to place.”

Mary Byrd, a smoker, was also adamant in her opinion.

“Good,” she said when she was told the bill had been defeated.”They’re already to expensive. To pay almost $3 for a pack ofcigarettes and in some places $5 is a bit much.”