State tobacco tax increases this weekend

- The new $2 tax per pack of cigarettes starts Saturday, April 1, 2017. California voters approved the proposition last November.

Smokers say it's unfair and it's just an added burden. But supporters say the tax is a way to get them to stop smoking.

"It's a witch hunt. Tobacco is the new war on drugs,' says Arnel Valle, a smoker who acknowledges that he's trying to cut back on his nicotine use by e-vaping.

Some smokers are lit up about the new $2 tax.

"I like smoking. I'm going to smoke," says one smoker outside a bar in the Castro as he smoked with group of friends.
 
"The people who are currently smoking do have a nicotine addiction and are being victimized over it," says Valle about the new tax.
 
Another smoke says he's tried to quit...but that cigarettes help him cope

"Heavy, heavy stress. I think the maximum I quit was five months," says Gerald, a 28-year old who didn't want to give his last name. He says he's been smoking for ten years.
 
Starting this weekend, San Francisco's Public Health Department will air a television ad as part of its SF Quits Campaign to get smokers to put out their cigarettes for good.

Print ads in English, Chinese and Spanish will be in neighborhood newspapers and on buses.

At the public health department, volunteers have assembled 5000 quit smoking kits to be given away.
Items include emory boards, teas and lip balm, all designed to be distractions for smokers.
 
 
"We're offering a few resources to kind of get them started in quitting. It takes a lot to quit," says Derek Smith, the Tobacco Free Project Director.
 
Among those assembling the kits are two people who used to smoke. They say quitting is difficult but worthwhile.

"Partner up with somebody who will give you the encouragement," says Sheila Kuykendall, who says she quit last August.

"I would say I 'd tried eight or nine times to quit smoking and I could never stop. Finally one day, I said if I live to see another birthday, I'm a not going to smoke again and I quit smoking," says Cheryl Jones, another former smoker who says she's been smoking since she was just 13-years-old.

The health department says more than seven out of ten smokers want to quit.

The kits are free and available to anyone who lives in the city.

Go to www.sfquits.org to get one.

For smokers who live elsewhere, you can still go to that website and call the number given. Officials say they will be able to direct you to the resources in your area.
 
For people who don't live in sf, public health officials say if you contact them, they can direct you to the resources in your city or county.
 

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