Smokers are digging deeper for the price of a pack of cigarettes today as the largest increase ever in the federal tobacco excise tax goes into effect.
The new federal tax is $1.01 per pack, up from 39 cents.
The increase means smokers in Pennsylvania will now pay $2.36 in federal and state taxes for a pack of cigarettes. In New Jersey, which is No. 2 in the nation in tobacco taxes, it will be $3.59, and $2.16 in Delaware.
But they are nowhere near New York City, where the price for a pack of cigarettes includes $5.26 in federal, state and municipal taxes.
Although the increase went into effect today, an unscientific survey in South Jersey found that some tobacco shop owners were not aware of the change and were still selling cigarettes at yesterday's prices.
This morning, Sabrina Rossi, 41, stood outside the Free Library of Philadelphia smoking a cigarette. She said she's been cutting back and has gotten down to a half-pack a day.
"And this will probably help me," she said.
She used to live in Boston where cigarettes are much more expensive - $7 a pack – compared to an average of about $6 a pack in Philadelphia even after the new federal taxes kicked in.
"It's amazing how many more people smoke in Philadelphia than smoke in Boston," Rossi said.
The federal tax is projected to raise $32.8 billion over the next 4.5 years. Congress approved the hike to expand the federally-funded State Children's Health Insurance Program which provides coverage to children from families too well-off to receive Medicaid, but too poor to afford private coverage.