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Smokers Stock Up As Cigarette Prices Rise

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY — Smokers may be recovering from sticker shock sincePhilip MorrisandR.J. Reynoldsraised wholesale cigarette prices by 45 to 50 cents a pack Monday.

The price hike came the same day the tobacco companies signed alandmark settlementwith dozens of states.

A convenience store along Interstate 95 got the official word Tuesday morning from one of its cigarette wholesalers. Now, they're delivering the bad news to customers.

Ruth Williams feels as if she was one of the lucky ones. She was the last customer to buy eight cartons of cigarettes at one convenience store before the prices went up.

"I'm going to smoke anyway. Why wait until tomorrow and pay an extra $5 a carton?" said Williams.

When the convenience store gets its next shipment of cigarettes, many brands will go up in price by $4.50 a carton. Smokers say the increase is unfair.

Ronald Saymour has been a smoker since he was 12- or 13-years-old. He says "It's tough. You're talking about $2.50 a pack. When I started smoking it was like 20 cents a pack."

But the tobacco companies say they had to raise prices because of the $206 billion settlement.

Will the price hike be enough to make some people quit smoking?

Johnny Brinson says he's going to kick the habit. "I can't afford to pay that much," Brinson says. "They're up high enough now."

The convenience store originally expected their next shipment of cigarettes to arrive next Monday. Instead, it arrived early Tuesday afternoon.

As soon as those packs hit the shelves, the prices went up.

One clerk says she sold 30 cartons of cigarettes in one half-hour, as smokers heard the news.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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