Business Up in Smoke

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Harrisonburg may be the "friendly city" but smokers say it hasn't been too kind to them.

Smoker and Harrisonburg resident, Cathy Ladner, says, "They could have gotten the money some other way. If you're going to penalize, penalize everybody."

She is referring to the city's thirty cents per pack cigarette tax that went into effect Tuesday.

Harrisonburg city officials say the tax is supposed to raise money for capital projects and to make up for state budget cuts, but many smokers say the city will lose money because it's lost their business. Tobacco lovers can simply cross the city line to buy their cigarettes cheaper in the county

Smokin Joes Discount Tobacco Store recently moved to Dayton to escape the city's tax. Area Manager Russ Fitzgerald says each carton would have cost customers an additional three dollars. And he says they already pay enough in taxes.

"That's 25 cents in state tax, $2.40 in federal tax, $4.10 in settlement tax and we pay the full settlement and when we ring them up it's 70 cents in sales tax," he explains.

With gas being cheaper than the tax, smokers are saying they don't mind the extra drive. That's a loss of revenue for the city and for cigarette retailers.

The Smokehaus, which sits on the county line, says the tax has cut their business in half. It's looking to relocate soon outside the city.

Store Manager Carolyn Gilmer says, "We're not going to be the tax collector for the city of Harrisonburg."

Virginia has the lowest cigarette tax in the U.S.


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