Coughers to Fill Industry Coffers

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WASHINGTON: It isn't just the government that's punishing smokers. The tobacco industry itself is now betting that the same addicts whose health problems roped it into a $368 billion legal settlement will fork over an additional 62 cents per pack to help keep cigarette makers in business.

Won't this tactic backfire and force millions to quit the coffin nails? Not according to a US Treasury Department audit leaked over the weekend. It says Big Tobacco will recoup settlement losses and more from those who keep on puffing despite the health risks and a price hike. Only seven percent of smokers would quit if they had to pay an extra 62 cents per pack, according to the report.

The White House, meanwhile, has announced that it will try to offset a $50 billion tobacco tax break that Congress slipped into the Federal budget by adding another $50 billion on the tobacco settlement. Clinton has also threatened more action against the industry if teen smoking target aren't reached. Not that Big Tobacco is worried after all, their customers seem willing to put up with anything.