Time To Quit?

Faced with a smoking ban and a new cigarette tax, smokers consider their options

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A smoking ban and an 80-cent cigarette tax passed by voters on Nov. 7 will affect many businesses in the Rim Country.

Gary Saxton, owner of Smoke This, said the ballot was misleading. His reading of the proposition led him to believe the cost was going up eight-tenths of a percent, not 80 cents.

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Gary Saxton, owner of Smoke This, worries he will lose business as smokers decide to quit or cut back after two propositions passed on Nov. 7 that make smoking less convenient and more expensive.

He said passing Proposition 203 will cost him an estimated $8,000 a year, because some smokers will quit or attempt to quit, due to the increased costs.

The 80-cent tax, which takes effect Dec. 1, will fund early childhood development programs.

"People will stock up before (the tax) hits," Saxton said, mentioning that is what happened four to five years ago when cigarette prices went up 60 cents per pack.

But the majority of smokers will adapt.

When the tax hits, many will simply buy a cheaper brand of cigarettes.

Another proposition that will take effect in May prohibits customers from lighting up inside bars and restaurants. Saxton imagines the ban will encourage some smokers to quit.

"The good thing is, it is a blanket," he said. Saxton said the unfair thing is that people will still be allowed to smoke at the Mazatzal Casino because it is on the Tonto Apache reservation.

The owner of Smoke This said he favored Proposition 206, which would have given bars and restaurants the option to have smoking and non-smoking sections in the establishments. That proposition failed at the polls.

"In Payson, who is going to step outside to smoke?" he said, mentioning the cold winters.

He said he is not against the cause, but is upset that smokers are being singled out and will be the ones funding early childhood development programs.

"They know cigarette smokers are a minority at the polls," Saxton said. "It is a good cause, but one group of people should not be paying for it."

Madeline Manchio, general manager of the Rye Bar and Grill, said she is sure the smoking ban in restaurants and bars will have an effect on her business.

She said the establishment is considering an outside bar for its clients who do want to smoke.

"I am a smoker, but it doesn't matter to me," she said. "A lot of people are saying they will stay home (and won't come out).

"I think a lot of people will quit, and that is a good thing."

Robert Herrera, one of the owners of the Ox Bow Saloon and a smoker, said he is not going to quit smoking regardless of the price.

He said the bar will end up doing something outside for the people who smoke.

"We have to deal with it and do it," Herrera said. "We have no choice now, do we?"

Tom Urioste, who moved to Payson 14 months ago from California, said he has no complaints about restaurants not allowing people to light up, but the decision in bars should have been left to the owners.

"We are being discriminated against," he said.

Urioste said he thinks it is ridiculous that a pack of cigarettes will now cost an extra 80 cents.

"I will tell you one thing, I will not give them away," he said, adding he has had no problem in the past giving out cigarettes when people have asked for one.

He said he thinks more and more people will be crossing the border to buy cigarettes in Mexico for half the cost because of the increased tax.

"There is nothing good about smoking," he said, as he took a long drag from a cigarette.

"I would like to quit smoking, but I enjoy having a cigarette and a beer at a bar. It's one of those things."

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