Possible Tax Has Residents in a Huff

By: Amy Gleason
By: Amy Gleason

Smokers come from all around to take advantage of the low prices of The Smokehaus.

"They're much cheaper over here," said a West Virginia customer.

"We sell a lot," said Store Manager Carolyn Gilmer. "I won't give away secrets," she laughed.

But now Gilmer isn't smiling. She's worried. The city of Harrisonburg is discussing putting a tax on cigarettes. And the Smokehaus, a discount tobacco store, is located right next to the county line.

"People are going to buy cigarettes regardless, but they're going to go outside of the city limits if they're cheaper," said Gilmer.

City Manager Roger Baker doesn't agree. Several cities similar in size to Harrisonburg have cigarette taxes. They are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

"We have more retail customers than they do," said Baker. "So we might do even better."

Gilmer's not convinced. She says she has regular customers from Charlottesville.

"They say the cigarettes are cheaper here and they don't mind making the drive over the mountain," said Gilmer.

Regardless, Baker says we need money for services cut by the state. And there is a limited amount of resources for the city to get money.

"They're passing a lot of expenses back down to local governments," said Baker. "Well we don't have anyone to pass it on to."

Except the smokers. As for Gilmer, she says the decision should be up to the people. That's why she'll take a petition with several hundred signatures against the tax to city council.

Baker says he believes the majority of council is in agreement we need a tax and he believes returning the money to health and welfare is an option.


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