The largest federal tobacco tax increase ever began today.

Local smoke shops are ready for the tax, which climbs to $1.01 per pack of cigarettes. Also, for those not wanting to continue their expensive habit, local stop-smoking programs are available.

The customers at Low Bob’s Tobacco, 434 W. Pike St., were warned ahead of time about the tax hike and they responded by buying ahead.

Manager Tiffany Miracle said, “We were real busy, even yesterday.

“We put up a sign,” warning customers of the federal tax hike, she explained. “I think it is ridiculous. It is price gouging.”

She said she has been at the business four years and has seen tax hikes in the past on cigarettes, this is the first tax she remembers being placed on all tobacco products. She said there may be a small effect on sales, “but people are going to smoke. And if we quit smoking, how would the government run the programs without the tax money?” she wondered.

Want to quit?

Those wanting to “kick the habit” can find help locally, through hospital or county health department programs and a free statewide “coaching” program.

Goshen General Hospital now hosts a series of “Kick Ash” sessions for those interested in stopping tobacco use. The six weekly sessions meet at the hospital from 4:30 to 5 p.m. There is a $75 fee.

An alternative is a free statewide program on smoking cessation. The phone number of that program is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

A division of the Elkhart County Health Department has sponsored smoking cessation programs for several years. Programs are even available for groups of employees who may want to meet at their workplace. For information, residents may call Mark Potuck at 523-2117.

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