There's a reason Dosal Tobacco Corp of Opa-Locka has hired more than two-dozen lobbyists and spread almost $360,000 around the Legislature and environs this year. It feels that Big Tobacco (Philip Morris, Reynolds, etc.) is ready to use the tobacco-tax debate as a way to get lawmakers to slap an additional fee on Dosal smokes because the company doesn't have to pay into Florida's landmark $11.3b tobacco settlement. At least not yet.
The words is making the rounds in the Capitol and Big Tobacco is playing coy on just want it plans. Sure, it opposes an additional tax. But if it has to accept one, why not use the tax effort to squash rival Dosal, which in a decade has seized 14 percent of Florida's cig market. In 1997, Dosal had less than 1 percent.
''We have a big target on our back,'' said Dosal's chief legal counsel, Guillermo J. Fernandez-Quincoces. ``This is our last stand.''