It’s a cool, spring night in Nashville. The trees around Belmont sway lazily with the breeze. On the side of the Beaman, a group of students congregate. They stand cigarettes in hand. Some of their cigarettes are half finished; others have just started. Laughter and conversation is exchanged between the students. Passersby can’t help but inhale the tobacco smell as they make their way to the caf.
This scene can be found almost every day on Belmont’s campus. Smokers assemble in one of the 12 designated smoking areas. However, these daily smoking habits may subside thanks to the new national smoking tax.
America’s 45 million smokers now see a higher tax on their cigarette packs. A $1 increase on a pack of smokes, including little cigars, pipe and chewing tobacco, and cigars, went into effect April 1, 2009.
An April fool’s joke? Hardly.
“The revenue from the tax increase, which will be used to expand coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to an additional four million low-income children, was signed into law in February,” according to a USAToday article.
Companies like Marlboro and Virginia Slims took it a step further and heightened the tax 9 cents more than the federal, the article continued.
The price hike is a government tactic to stop teenage smoking because one cigarette includes arsenic, methanol, ammonia, and carbon monoxide. Teenagers are sensitive to prices, so an increase in the tax may discourage them from purchasing cigarettes.
But what about Belmont students? Have they felt the tax or are they going with the flow?
Some freshmen have mixed feelings about the smoking tax. Some think the tax is a good thing but won’t affect the students, while others think students will reduce their usage.
Raven Bryant, freshman, thinks the latter. College students, she says, will more than likely limit their usage because they “are typically broke.” She was a smoker but, because of the tax, has limited her usage to a pack every two weeks.
“It (kind of) bites because I have to hunt for cheaper prices so I usually just buy at the first place I visit,” Bryant said.
The government is simply trying to get more income out of Tennessee, according to Melissa Pazdro, a non-smoking freshman.
“Since Tennessee does not have an income tax, the state feels it must raise the smoking tax,” Pazdro said. “If they raised the sales tax, which is already a high 9.725 (percent), I think there would be more of an outcry, on the part of the citizens, that would be heard by raising the smoking tax.”
She feels smoking is more of an addiction rather than a question of whether or not cigarettes are expensive. People won’t give up their habit simply because of a raise in the tax. Belmont students, she says, will not be quick to stop the trend of having a cigarette in their hand nor will the cravings stop.
People agree with Pazdro’s claim of students being addicted, that the new tax will not stop them from smoking. Brock Ownby, freshman, used to be a smoker but has recently quit. He realized what the tobacco was doing to his lungs and decided to stop. He doesn’t think students will feel the tax because cigarettes are addictive.
“People who smoke will continue to smoke. So I just think they will probably just try methods of making it less expensive, like … buying cheaper brands,” Ownby said. He doesn’t think Belmont students are or will be affected by the increased prices.
While the tax continues, students may continue to see peers still taking a drag on a clear, spring evening.