Cigarette Tax Heated Issue for City Council

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

It already has business owners up in arms. Now a proposed Staunton cigarette tax is a hot topic among city council members.

The 30-cent-per-pack cigarette tax is part of city manager Bob Stripling's city budget proposal.

The tax is one of two proposed new sources of income, along with a tax on cell phones, that would be used to help pay for renovations to two city elementary schools.

But at a budget work session Thursday night, not all council members agreed the tax was a good idea.

Lacy King was the council member most opposed to the tax. He says it will drive smokers and their money out of the city and into Augusta County.

"They'll be at a convenience store in the county, where there is no tax, and you're going to be taking business away from some of our local convenience stores," he said afterwards. "Not just for cigarettes, not just for gas, but maybe they'll get a carton of milk, or maybe they'll get some other products there."

Dr. Jean Donovan was the tax's most vocal proponent.

"No one likes to have to pay extra taxes," she said. "But of all the taxes that we can levy, I think cigarettes are a product that none of us want to promote our children to use. We don't want to promote its use in society."

Council briefly discussed other options, like reducing the tax, or finding another source of revenue. But no decisions were made Thursday night.

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