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    West Virginia Cigarette Sales Drop 9 Percent

    Health officials credit tax hike for drop-off.

    CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- A May 2003 increase in the West Virginia cigarette tax appears to have reduced consumption by up to 9 percent, reported the Associated Press.

    Bruce Adkins, the director of the West Virginia Division of Tobacco Prevention, said Monday that his agency got information last week on the number of tax stamps sold since the tax was increased from 38 cents per pack to 55 cents.

    Adkins said Department of Health and Human Resources officials are analyzing the information to take into account issues like whether border-state sales might have increased during that period. But since studies have shown that most smokers are convenience buyers -- picking up cigarettes on their way to or from somewhere -- he doesn't expect cross-border sales to play much of a role.

    Adkins spoke at the opening of a two-day conference devoted to reducing tobacco use in West Virginia. According to the state's Tobacco Prevention Program, West Virginians spend up to $890 million a year on tobacco-related health care, and more than one in five state residents die each year due to a smoking-related illnesses.

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