Smokers rethinking habit

FAIRMONT – Karly Deling has been talking about e-cigarettes all day.

She works behind the counter at the BP station on State Street in Fairmont, and has been offering them to her customers as an option when they balk at the newly higher price of regular cigarettes.

A state tax increase took effect Monday, raising the cost of each pack of cigarettes $1.60, pushing the average price to $7.60.

“People are refusing to buy [cigarettes],” Deling said. “We have probably sold half of what we usually do. Cigarettes are a big seller for us.”

The downturn in sales – a large part of BPs business, according to Deling – has prompted her to try to talk her smoking customers into electronic versions of cigarettes, which are not included in the tax increase.

She has had mixed results, even though, as she pointed out to her customers, an e-cigarette is cheaper than two regular packs.

Alan Flitter turned down the electronic version because he doesn’t like the feel of smoking the vapor.

“It is smoother,” he said. “I like the harshness going down my throat.”

Even with his refusal, he has had to alter his buying habits because of the tax increase. He bought a pack of cigarettes that are longer than his typical choice, with hopes he can make one pack last longer.

“I am going to try to buy 100s and smoke half of one to see if that last longer,” he said. “I usually buy 72s.”

In the long run, he hasn’t decided how he is going to make up the cost difference.

“I’ll probably either quit or switch to the e-cigarettes,” he said.

Deling said many customers are talking about making the 10-mile drive to Iowa to get their fix without the higher price tag.

The talk has her concerned about the effects on the business, as well as her customers.

“People are already struggling the way it is,” she said. “With gas going up and cigarettes going up, and groceries … We aren’t going to be middle class much longer.”

Smoker Matt Ziemer said he hasn’t bought a pack at the new price, but he isn’t looking forward to it.

He smokes about half a pack per day, and expects he will just pay the higher price.

Wiley Ziemer said he intends to cut back.

Deling has had to make a choice as well.

“I bought my last pack [Sunday],” she said. “I am going to quit.”