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PHILIP MORRIS UPS CIGARETTE PRICE

Philip Morris, the nation's biggest tobacco company, has boosted wholesale cigarette prices by a nickel a pack, an industry analyst said Friday.

The move by the maker of Marlboro cigarettes is likely to be quickly matched by other tobacco makers, said Martin Feldman, who follows the industry for the investment firm Salomon Smith Barney.

Increases in the wholesale prices that tobacco companies charge their distributors are often passed along to smokers at the retail counter.

Feldman said the 1.9 percent price increase is the industry's fifth since January 2000. Over that period, the wholesale price of premium cigarettes has risen more than 17 percent, he said.

The industry last boosted wholesale prices by 14 cents a pack in late April, pushing the average price above $3.

The industry has used price hikes to boost profits even as cigarette consumption has fallen. The major tobacco companies are also making payments on a $246 billion settlement with the states who dropped lawsuits seeking reimbursement for the costs of treating sick smokers.

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