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Wisconsin’s Cigarette Tax Inspires Many To Quit.

Jan 10, 2008 11:32 AM (1 day ago) AP

MADISON, Wis. (Map, News) – The increase in Wisconsin’s cigarette tax seems to have inspired many to quit.

The week after the tax went up, the state’s tobacco quit line received as many calls as it got all of last year. Nine-thousand people called the toll-free line in the first week of January. Usually only about 200 people a week call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line.

The cigarette tax increased by US$1 per pack on Jan. 1.

On New Year’s Day, the tax for a pack of cigarettes in Wisconsin increased by $1. Wisconsin residents are now paying $1.77 in taxes for a single pack of cigarettes. The tax on a single pack of cigarettes in Michigan is $2. Maureen Busalacchi, executive director for SmokeFree Wisconsin, said the organization estimates 33,000 adults will quit for good because of this tax increase.

Thousands of people are calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW looking to quit, she said. The demand for quitting is high, and two-week starter kits of medication are being offered to help smokers kick the habit.

“With the support people are getting from the quit line, hopefully, that number will be higher but that is our projection,” Busalacchi said. Wisconsin has a population of 5.5 million, and there are 900,000 smokers in the dairy state.(HK has 7 million population and 840,000 smokers hence the comparison)

A smoker usually does not quit the first time he or she tries. “The more you quit, the better you get at it. If you’re not successful, try again because your success rate increases,” Busalacchi said. Among carcinogens and other harmful chemicals, cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly-addictive substance. “Your brain is calling for this,” Busalacchi said. “We should support (people) and help them so they can be successful in quitting.” Busalacchi said Smoke Free Wisconsin was one of the biggest proponents of this tax increase. “We support it because it is the best way to reduce use from starting a lifetime of 66,000 kids won’t get started smoking because of this tax,” Busalacchi said. “We hope that it exceeds our expectations in the number of people that quit smoking. With health care costs and how much Wisconsin spends a year, that can be nothing but a good thing.”

Wisconsin currently spends $10 million a year for tobacco prevention, according to Smoke Free Wisconsin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the state spend between US$31.2 million and $82.4 million a year to have an effective, comprehensive tobacco prevention program.

Money generated from the increased tax on cigarettes will go into the state’s general fund. “It originally was suppose to go into Medicaid, which is really the best place for taxpayers … we spend over a half a billion dollars in Medicaid treating tobacco related diseases. That is just Medicaid,” Busalacchi said. Wisconsin is the 12th highest taxed state for cigarettes in the nation. Six states have cigarette tax rates of $2 or more with 22 states that have cigarette tax rates of $1 or more. New Jersey is the highest at $2.28 in taxes for a pack of cigarettes.

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