RALEIGH — Looking to pay for an abundance of new programs, President Clinton plans to propose a cigarette tax hike. The plan has North Carolina's tobacco farmers worried they will take another hit.
"When I heard about it, I was shocked," saysCongressman Bob Etheridge, who was referring to the president's proposal for a 55-cent-a-pack tax increase.
The plan recalls the president's budget a year ago when he counted on a massive fine on the tobacco industry to pay for his spending initiatives. Tobacco legislation never passed last year, although some of his spending requests were granted nonetheless.
Etheridge is worried about the effect a tax increase would have on tobacco farmers, especially since they have taken several hits lately.
"You just don't kick someone when they're down," he said. "We're going to fight it."
"I'm not happy with it, not if you look at paying another $5 a carton," smoker Clint Newsome said. "It would be time to quit. Zyban would be coming around."
However, people did not quit when cigarettes went up 45 cents a pack several months ago.
"Our sales in November and December were stronger in cigarettes than they were in the past year," says Weston Wilson, manager of J.R.'s.
One former smoker is not bothered by the proposed increase.
"Let them raise it," former smoker Buddy Boland said. "It's better than taxing the gas which everyone has to use. This is a privilege, if you want it pay for it."
The proposal would create an additional $8 billion for defense and social programs.