Store employees, smokers weigh in on Oklahoma cigarette tax raise

BRYAN COUNTY, Okla. (KXII) -- On July 1, a new law went into effect in the state of Oklahoma- the tax on cigarettes increased by a dollar per pack to pay for teacher raises and school funding.

That means an estimated 18,700 Oklahoman smokers are faced with a choice...quit or pay up.

It's been eight days and local smokers said this dollar is taking a toll on their wallet.

Marty and Gail Hoppel said it felt like a punch in the gut.

"Wow. Now I really do gotta quit because I can't afford this you know?" Marty said.

The state tax for a pack of cigarettes used to be $1.03, but with the new budget, it has increased about one dollar. That means about a five cent increase per cigarette.

The Hoppels said this extra dollar might be enough to make them quit.

"And it's the only thing that we really do bad is smoking. So now they're going to take my only bad habit away?" Gail said.

Store employees said they're already seeing a decrease.

"Now its very difficult because many people come and they say, 'Wow, that's expensive!' You know, business was good, but now they complain and they left," store employee Balada Smmake said.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust provides free resources to help people quit.

"What we anticipate is seeing more people contemplating quitting as the price of smoking increases," public information and outreach director Julie Bisbee said.

The tax is a result of ten days of rallies at the capitol and months of debate, with teachers demanding pay raises and more education funding.

"I wish there would have been a gradual increase and more of a warning, instead of hitting ya cold turkey like that," Marty said.

The Tobacco Helpline number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW and provides free coaching, nicotine patches and gum.

So far, it's helped over 350,000 Oklahomans quit smoking.