Voters in California will take to the polls on Nov. 7 to decide the fate of Proposition 86.

Proposition 86 would more then triple the tax on a pack of cigarettes and other tobacco products. The current tax on a pack of cigarettes is 87 cents. If passed, Proposition 86 would increase that to $3.47, making the average cost $6.50 per pack.

“This would really affect our business and this store. A lot of people are coming in and saying that they are going to quit if it passes, but for some people that’s really too hard,” said Lindsay Numes, an employee of Smokes 4 Less in Santa Maria.

“If it passes some say they will go online to shop and try to find ways to avoid the taxes. My boss said the black market would go up a lot.”

Numes said the average price for a carton of cigarettes at her location will increase to $70, and “that’s for regular name brands like Marlboro and Camel.” Cans of chewing tobacco will increase $3.50, bringing the price to about $10 per can, and the average cigar will cost about $14.10. “And there are people who go through about three packs a day,” she said.

“It (Proposition 86) would make a regular store like ours like a jewelry store where everything is just way more expensive inside. The chance of us getting robbed would go up,” Numes said. She also said she is worried about the future of her job.

According to the anti-tax lobbying group, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), the increase in prices caused by a tobacco tax would hurt small businesses in California that mainly rely on cigarette sales for income, such as Smokes 4 Less. ATR is calling Proposition 86 California’s Poison Pill.

“While Proposition 86 would leave California’s small business in ashes, it would also whet the appetites of greedy hospitals, HMOs and drug companies,” ATR President Grover Norquist said in a press release.

The gained revenue from the tax increase would provide funding to qualified hospitals for emergency services, nursing education and health insurance to eligible children, according to the official title and summary prepared by the attorney general. ATR states that nearly 40 percent of the revenue would go to funding hospitals, but only 10 percent would go to preventing future cigarette sales and deterring children from picking up the habit.

“This massive tax increase won’t stop people from smoking,” Norquist said in a press release, “It will only burn the already struggling California economy when consumers go to other states or to the black market to purchase affordable cigarettes.”

Supporters for Proposition 86 say the tax increase will save lives and reduce smoking. According to the Web site www.yesprop86.com, with its popular slogan “Stop Big Tobacco,” the passing of Proposition 86 will stop the sales of 312 million packs of cigarettes per year and reduce healthcare costs.

“Californians are currently paying more than $8 billion each year for the medical costs of preventable, smoking-related illnesses. That’s $700 per family per year, whether you smoke or not.”

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