One Week After The Cigarette Tax Hike

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) -- What cost 20 cents two weeks ago will be at 62 cents from now on.

The question now, did raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes make smokers cough it up, or is it choking the businesses who depend on it?

Smokin Joe's cash registers haven't exactly been burning since the cigarette tax went up last Sunday.

"People are buying less right now," said Cody Hicks, who works at Smokin Joe's. "Some probably due to the cost and some probably because they bought so many before the tax went up."

Tennessee's tax is now the highest in the Southeast, more than double Kentucky's, but hardly the highest in the country.

Still, with a carton of Camels costing nearly $34, and Marlboro's not much less, smokers have a lot to think about.

"I've been slowing down, but it's on my mind to quit right now," said Rick Roper, a smoker.

"Nobody's going to really quit," Hicks said. "People will go to cheaper brands, but not everybody, some already have."

Hicks may stock more of those cheaper brands when he needs to re-order, but he hasn't had to stock since the tax went up.

Before that he had been restocking twice a week.

"We expect the beginning of next month, when everybody has kind of smoked through what they've bought, and going through the product, we expect sales to go back to what they were," Hicks said.

Tennessee is betting that more than tripling the tax won't quite double the take, but lawmakers still figuring it'll buy 95 million more a year for education and better trauma care.

The new tax hike spared cigars, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco.

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