West Virginia in Tobacco Border War

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West Virginia in Tobacco Border War

05/19/2003
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Stores in neighboring Kentucky are seeing brisk tobacco sales less than one month after West Virginia's first cigarette tax increase in 25 years took effect.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Legislature passed a 38-cent tax increase on cigarettes, which went into effect May 1.

Although it's too early to tell what long-term effect the new tax will have on smoking and buying habits in West Virginia, stores in border counties fear more West Virginians will go to Kentucky to get their tobacco, an Associated Press report found. The new cigarette tax caused the tax on a carton of cigarettes to increase from $1.70 to $5.50. Kentucky's tobacco tax remained the same at 35 cents.

According to 2002 population estimates, about half of West Virginians live in border counties. Forth said people who live along the Kentucky and Virginia borders are most likely to cross state lines to buy cigarettes because the taxes are so much lower there - 3 cents per pack in Kentucky and 2 cents in Virginia.

Legislators expect the tax to generate an additional $60 million in revenue to help pay Medicaid expenses for low-income and disabled residents, in addition to decreasing overall tobacco use, the report said.

The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia says studies over the past 15 years show that 10 percent tax increases on tobacco reduces smoking by 3 to 5 percent in adults and almost 7 percent in teenagers.