Lawton_More Oklahomans have quit smoking according to the Oklahoma Health Department. The adult smoking rate has dropped from 28.7% in 2001 to 24.7% in 2008. The figures seem to ring true in Lawton as well - but why?
Reasons range from anti-smoking initiatives to bans on smoking at certain places, but the main reason was the recent tobacco tax increase. Smokers pile into smoke shops such as the ones in casinos on a daily basis to satisfy their nicotine cravings, but customers haven't been as friendly at the counters lately. "Very upset because there are a lot of smokers, and people don't want to pay six bucks a pack for just cigarettes," said smoke shop worker Eden Parks.
Because of the federally mandated tax increase, it isn't likely that smokers' anger and frustration will decrease anytime soon. But, some groups are excited about the influx of calls they have received on the tobacco hotline. "We are finally seeing some results of the hard work that a lot of people have put into it - it's exciting," said Sandy Foster with the Tobacco Prevention program at Comanche County Memorial Hospital (CCMH).
Some of the program's influx of calls has to do with the tobacco industry. "When you increase the tax, they see it as an opportunity to increase their price," said Foster. "But they get to blame it on the tax, so people aren't mad at the tobacco industry, they are mad at the government."
With the higher prices, folks have had to find different methods of coping - even if it means kicking the habit altogether. "I can't afford the other things so I am just going to have to do it cold-turkey."
Foster says that with the tax increase, a pack-a-day smoker likely will pay $135 per month for cigarettes. With the economy the way it is now, some smokers may find that price hard to swallow.