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Group sees more smokers wanting to quit
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Raising cigarette taxes seems to have raised smokers' interest in quitting.
The American Lung Association of Illinois says it has seen a sharp jump in the number of calls to its Quitline. Normally, it gets about 100 calls a day, but that has climbed to 140 and even 150 a day, association spokeswoman Kathy Drea said.
"We always ask people what inspired them to call. Generally people say billboards or (bus ads). In the past couple of weeks, people have been talking about the tax increase," Drea said. Illinois recently raised the tax by 40 cents, to a total of 98 cents a pack. That takes an additional $146 a year from the pocket of a pack-a-day smoker. At roughly $4 a pack, that smoker will pay about $1,460 a year for cigarettes.
The increase took effect July 1, but it was approved by lawmakers weeks earlier, giving smokers plenty of time to worry about the cost.
"About 70 percent of smokers want to quit anyway, and this gives them a little extra incentive," Drea said.
A similar situation in Connecticut suggests the increased interest will last a while.
Connecticut increased cigarette taxes 61 cents a pack, effective April 3. That also raised smokers' interest in quitting, and the interest has not abated yet, Margaret LaCroix, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association of Connecticut, said Monday. The group is still getting lots of visits to its Web site and is filling up classes on how to quit smoking even though there usually isn't enough demand to hold the classes in summertime, she said.
Indiana also raised cigarette taxes by 40 cents a pack. Officials there say they haven't seen an increase in people trying to quit, but they expect one and are preparing to deal with the demand.
"Increasing price is the most successful intervention that we know about, together with strong, effective media campaigns," said Karla Sneegas, executive director of the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency. "We're looking at how we can take advantage of this special window of opportunity."