It’s been a month since cigarette smokers in Florida were hit with a new $1 tax, bringing cigarette prices up to $6 per pack, which the state said has it on track to net about $1 billion next year, the Ft. Myers News-Press reported.
The total in new tax money gained from July won’t be determined until mid-August, but the $899 million predicted for the year in cigarette taxes would more than triple what the state brought in last year on all tobacco products, noted Amy Baker, coordinator for the Florida Legislature’s Economic and Demographic Research Office.
Smokers are making changes to afford their habit in light of the new taxes. Some are changing brands and opting for generic cigarettes or new shorter cigarettes, others are using coupons to get a better deal, while others are buying online. Some retailers reported sales are off as much as 30%.
“People are cutting down. They’re trying to make a pack last longer,” Sue Burbar, owner of Gas & Shop Food Mart on Hancock Bridge Parkway in Cape Coral told the Ft. Myers News-Press. “One of my employees goes outside, smokes a half of a cigarette, puts it out and then finishes the rest later.”
Jim Smith, president of the Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents 5,300 of the state’s 9,200 convenience stores/gas stations, said the tax is hurting small businesses. “All we have right now is anecdotal evidence and what our members along the northern border of the state are telling us is that sales here are down 10-15%.”
One place smokers can’t find cheap cigarettes anymore is a Seminole Indian Reservation. Seminole Casino Immokalee closed its smoke shop this spring, said Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminole tribe. “Beginning July 1, the tribe started collecting state sales tax (on all cigarettes) everywhere,” Bitner said. When the tax was 34 cents, the reservations did not add it on, he noted.