Smokers 'Call It Quits' Following Tax Hike

A 38 year-old Yani Yukhtman stands outside the Capoeira Studio on Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica on April 18th. He and his companion, Kimberly Tsabari, are waiting patiently for the 3:00 PM complimentary hypnotherapy session to help smokers put an end to their habit. Yukhtman has been smoking a pack a day for 14 years, and has recently been informed by his physician that his body is showing early signs of emphysema.

"I've tried everything to quit," Yukhtman stated. "The patches, the gum; it works for a few days, but then I tell myself, 'just one more' until it turns into a regular thing again."

For the entire hour before the hypnotherapy session began, Yukhtman resists smoking a cigarette.

"You look like a leper when you smoke now," Yukhtman continues. "The stigma that 'smoking is cool' is gone. Now when I see other people smoke, I think it's unattractive and I can't believe that I look like that."

Yukhtman is among hundreds of people prompted to quit smoking as the health risks are becoming more apparent, and many just plain can't afford to smoke any longer in this weakened economy. President Barrack Obama passed a law early on in his legislation which raised cigarette taxes up $.62 per pack.

This law became effective on April 1st, 2009. Some smokers panicked and stocked up on their supplies before the law took effect, while others - such as Yukhtman and Tsabari - sought out other methods of kicking the habit for good.

When Melanie Friedlander of HypnoSwitch heard of this tax hike, she immediately knew that she wanted to help smokers help themselves. As a certified Hypnotherapist, Friedlander has helped many smokers surrender their packs of tobacco. She volunteered to complimentary hypnotize 62 smokers in light of the $.62 tax hike; Yukhtman & Tsabari were among the participants.

Friedlander reported that she takes pride in giving back to the community. She goes on to state "My purpose here is to turn some people into non-smokers; to let them know that there are tools for helping them quit. A lot of these people have tried everything and are not succeeding because smoking is a mind issue. Letting them know that there is a tool for the [mental] addiction will be helpful."

No response was received when attempting to follow up with Yukhtman regarding the success of the hypnosis the following day. Tsabari responded approximately 24 hours after the hypnosis took place. She commented that, while the urge to smoke had not changed, she views the habit very differently. In a recent email response, she commented "I used to always think about [smoking]. I am more focused on quitting this time than smoking."

Justin Lee, an SMC student and long-time cigarette smoker feels indifferent by the tax hike.

"I am aware of the tax hike, and I think it's beneficial to the economy. If you don't like it, or you can't afford to smoke, then you should quit."

The projected $33 billion dollars earned by the $.62 tax hike will go to directly fund an expansion of health insurance for children, according to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The revenue by the tax hike as projected will accrue over the span of four years.

When asked how the tax hike personally affected his wallet, Justin kept a straight face and responded with a straight-forward answer.

"[The tax hike] sort of influences my decision to smoke, but doesn't affect me enough to make me quit. I guess it depends on how much willpower I have." Justin went on to say that it's possible that hypnotherapy may work for him, but he has not ever considered it as an option. "The procedure doesn't exactly convince me, but it's worth a shot. If it worked, it would be great to be healthy. The benefits definitely outweigh the repercussions."