New Hanover Health Dept. looks to promote healthier lifestyles by raising taxes

It’s 2011 and like everyone else the New Hanover County Health Department is looking for healthier lifestyles. The department is asking county commissioners to support a tobacco tax that could once again raise the price of cigarettes. Smoking is a habit many people admit is hard to kick. The New Hanover County Health Department is now looking to kick start a new you with a new tax on cigarettes.

“I think raising the price is definitely not going to get you to stop smoking,” said Michael McLaurin, who does not smoke. “If anything, the more you try to get it away from a person I think the more they try to get to it.”

In an attempt to close a growing budget shortfall some say a tax increase could help. Currently, North Carolina’s current cigarette tax is .45 cents. If you increase the tax by one dollar per pack the estimated annual revenue is more than $300 million dollars, but some smokers say it’s a bad idea.

“Is it the government’s position to decide how we are to live our lives and what we put in our bodies?” asked Joy Ashley, who is a smoke. “Is that their position here in North Carolina?”

The health department’s push is a part of a national campaign to fight unhealthy habits like smoking. However, it’s up to those in Raleigh to fight for the cigarette tax increase in North Carolina and some are not on board with the idea.

“It’s not government’s job to micromanage us much less slap taxes on every single thing we do,” said Thom Goolsby, who is the 9th District’s Senate-Elect. “I’m sick of it. North Carolinians are sick of it. I don’t support any of it.”

Some think the increase is a win-win situation as the tax could make people stray away from buying the pricey tobacco product. Some non-smokers say the price of cigarettes is astronomical right now and another increase would be unbearable.

“How much is enough?” asked McLaurin. “Five dollars? Just think if you buy a carton that’s a lot of money.”

Nothing is set in stone in regards to the cigarette tax increase in North Carolina. The New Hanover County Health Department is simply asking for support from county commissioners.


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