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Up in smoke.

Anyone have a light?

Well, your "Whispers" staff does, and we decided to shine it on that newfound revenue generated by the tax hike on cigarettes that went into effect earlier this year.

Since the tax almost doubled in March, from 59 cents to $1.15 per pack, the state now has revenue figures available for five full months.

For March through July, the state collected about $66.9 million. That compares with $51.4 million from the same period a year ago. So while the tax went up by 95 percent, revenue has gone up by only 30 percent.

A bit more ciphering tells us that the number of packs of cigarettes sold (legally, that is) in Arkansas decreased from 87.1 million packs in the same five-month period of 2008 to 58.2 million in the new tax era. That's a 33 percent reduction.

Does it mean a third of Arkansas smokers have kicked the habit? Unlikely. Some numbers are undoubtedly buying cheaper smokes in border states, and some have merely reduced the number of coffin nails they consume on a regular basis.

But there probably are thousands of irritated Arkansans ready to lash out at any moment.

You've been warned.

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Title Annotation:Whispers
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 3, 2009
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