Philip Morris sent a postcard to over 5,000 convenience stores and other retailers across the state that includes an 800-number for callers to directly contact state lawmakers' offices to voice their opposition to an increased cigarette tax.
The N.C. Alliance for Health, a statewide coalition promoting tobacco use prevention, is trying to counter Philip Morris' postcard with its own grassroots effort.
"We're very concerned because we don't have the resources to go to every convenience store in the state of North Carolina to hand out propaganda about our issue," said Lynette Tolson of the Alliance for Health.
What anti-smoking advocates do have, they say, is a dedicated network of volunteers who believe public health is at stake. The Alliance for Health is mobilizing those volunteers to make phone calls to ensure that a cigarette tax increase of some sort is included in this year's budget.
The Alliance for Health has been pushing for a 75-cent increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes, but it realizes that at least this year, its goal may be unrealistic as state lawmakers continue budget negotiations.
The North Carolina Senate's proposed budget calls for a 35-cent per-pack increase; the House of Representatives budget calls for a 25-cent increase. House Speaker Jim Black said there just are not enough House votes to raise the tax any higher.
A compromised state budget is scheduled to be released before the end of the month.
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