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Smokers Undeterred by Jump in Ohio's Tobacco Tax

When Ohio's tobacco taxes increased by 70 cents July 1, many smokers reacted with anger and a vow to keep smoking, according to a report in the Marietta Times.

"They think it's going to get people to quit smoking, and it’s not," said smoker Shawn Green, 52. "I don't like the idea. People have a hard time affording cigarettes as it is."

The increase is part of the state's $51.2 billion budget. The tax jumped from 55 cents per pack to $1.25 per pack, bringing the price of a single pack of cigarettes to more than $4. The tax is now the 13th highest tobacco tax in the nation.

Tobacco taxes previously brought in about $548 million a year in state revenue. The increase is expected to result in another $450 million, a large portion of which will go to public school construction projects.

Supporters of the tax hike, like the American Cancer Society, say that it will encourage smokers to quit, preventing as many as 60,000 Ohioans from dying of tobacco-related illnesses.

Opponents of the increase say that it will cause stores to close and cost the state jobs. The Ohio Council for Reasonable Business Policy claims the tax jump will cost approximately 1,900 jobs. The American Economics Group says that 12,500 jobs statewide are supported directly by tobacco sales. The organization also estimates the tax increase will cost retailers $805 million in sales.

Several groups have suggested that border area residents -- like those in the Mid-Ohio Valley -- will go across state lines to purchase cigarettes in states with lower taxes, taking much-needed tax dollars with them.

In Marietta, Ohio, this is a particular concern, since West Virginia's 55-cent tobacco tax is now considerably lower than the tax in Ohio.

"Everyone said that they’ll be buying their cigarettes in West Virginia as soon as that tax goes up," said Audrey Burwell, a customer service representative at Speedway.

Employees at Speedway and Go-Mart in Marietta, Ohio, said there had been no effect on business by mid-day Friday.

Local smokers may not notice the tax hike for a few days.

"I think once they come in [to purchase cigarettes] and see the prices, then they'll start complaining," said Denise Perkins, a cashier at Go-Mart.
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