Local News

Tar Heel Farmers Worried About Tobacco Deal

Posted September 16, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— President Clinton has said he wants to see an extra $1.50 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold. That has Tar Heel tobacco farmers worried that they may end up paying the real price in lost jobs.

This new development comes as the tobacco deal between cigarette companies and suing states appears to be crumbling.

WRAL-TV5'sBrian Bowman spent much of Tuesday speaking with farmers who are stuck in the middle of the tobacco fight.

In spite of its troubles, tobacco still makes much more money than any other crop in North Carolina. That's why farmers like Glenn Stancil are more than a little angry about the threat of increased regulations.

Cigarette companies have agreed to pay states $368 billion to offset the cost of smoking-related illnesses. Wednesday, the president is expected to say he won't endorse the settlement because it doesn't go far enough. Sources close to the White House believe he'll eventually demand full Food and Drug Administration regulation of the industry, reductions in advertising, and a tax hike of up to $1.50 per pack.

If cigarette companies start losing money, some farmers worry the loss will eventually show up here. Farmer Linwood Cherry says there's not a lot of freedom for tobacco growers these days.

The president will wait until next year to call for specific changes, but some growers are already feeling caught in the middle. Cherry says people will eventually realize the country can't operate without taxes from tobacco.

Meanwhile, the retail side of keeping kids away from tobacco products got a refresher course in Raleigh Tuesday. The training workshop was designed to help store clerks spot anyone under age 18 trying to buy cigarettes or snuff. The bottom line for clerks: card anyone asking for tobacco who looks 27 years old or younger.

Similar workshops are scheduled around the state.