New Hampshire legislators last week said they closed a $650 million revenue gap by passing an $11.5 billion budget that includes raising the cigarette tax by 45 cents, to a total of $1.78 per pack, Seacoast Media Group reported.
Despite the tax hike, New Hampshire still offers the lowest cigarette tax in the region, according to Michael Dumond, bureau chief of Bureau of Prevention Services, state Division of Public Health Services.
Maine, for example, has a tax of $2 per pack; Vermont’s tax is $1.99; Rhode Island’s tax is $2.46; and Massachusetts has a $2.51 tax per pack, Dumond said.
Smoke shops in Seabrook, N.H., located at the Massachusetts border are making a steady profit as smokers travel into the state to buy cigarettes at cheaper prices. Smoke shop owners also see more customers choosing to save money by opting for roll your own products.
Tobacco Depot opened on Route 1 in Seabrook, N.H., about a year ago. Loose tobacco represents about 25% of its smoke business, said Manager Dan Sullivan. Sales of loose tobacco are growing as well, he said, though they slowed after the SCHIP tax in April. “There used to be a big gap between the two,” Sullivan said, comparing loose tobacco to cigarette packs.
But with prices the way they are, that gap is quickly narrowing. The cheapest cigarette cartons at Tobacco Depot sell for about $35, Sullivan said. Meanwhile, a one pound bag of loose tobacco, which is equivalent to more than two cartons, sells for $40 to $50.
At Tobacco Depot, a carton of Marlboro’s sell for $49. In Massachusetts, the same carton would cost about $80. Even with the new July 1 tax, cigarettes in New Hampshire will be considerably cheaper than in bordering states, and Sullivan predicts consumers will continue to cross state lines to buy them.