The 62-cent-per-pack federal tax increase on cigarettes — earmarked to fund the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program — has resulted in a surge in smokers looking for help to quit, the Washington Post reported April 3.
In recent weeks, tobacco “quit lines” nationwide have registered an increase in calls. A national telephone number, 1-800-QUITNOW, registered 203,374 calls in March, more than twice February's 91,316; in January, it received 76,685 calls. In Washington, D.C., the quit line got a record 131 calls the day before the tax went into effect; the same day a week earlier, it had 44 calls; a month earlier, 19.
“I'm in shock, quite frankly,” said Debra Annand, director of health education services for the American Lung Association's District of Columbia office. “Obviously something happened to drive that call volume up.”
At the association's office the shock over the price increase is evident, said counselor Robert Wright. The number of people seeking help in the past was three or four people each month — now, that many inquire each day. “I just got a young guy who said he was told a pack cost $8, and he said, 'No way!'” Wright said.