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Cigarette price hike wakes up smokers at last minute

Date Posted: 2003-07-05

A cigarette tax hike that took effect July 1 raised the price of a pack of cigarettes an average of 20. Although the tax hike was announced weeks in advance, very few smokers appeared to stock up on their cigarettes until at the last minute.

Most convenience store in the prefecture had erected signs stating the fact that the prices would go up. However, managers at the stores said that most smokers seemed to wake up to the fact only a couple of hours before the midnight deadline. "I was wondering whether people did not care, but then during the last couple of hours the rush started, and we ended selling all cigarettes we had," a store manager at a Lawson in Urasoe said. He said that all in all, cigarette sales in his store ended up being about 10 times more than on a usual day.

An owner of a specialty cigarette store agreed. "Okinawan people take their time to move, and then they move at the last moment. Customers knew that the cigarette prices were going up but very few of our customers stocked up weeks or even days before. Just when there were only a couple of hours left, everyone came rushing in. That almost panicked our cashiers," the owner said.

The same could be seen with vending machines. Many had people standing in long lines late in the evening of the 30th. Some smokers tried to put a better face on the price hike. "This can give me a strong incentive to stop smoking," a man puffing away in front of Makiminato Shopping Center said.

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