SC Cigarette Tax Could Increase

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January 25, 2006
A plan to increase the cigarette tax in South Carolina is still smoldering. As News 12 reports, the push behind the hike may be coming from Georgia.

The cost of lighting up could be going up in South Carolina. Some democratic lawmakers are working on a plan to increase South Carolina’s seven-cent cigarette tax, the cheapest in the country.

“I think it stinks. It’s a punishment for people who do smoke. I mean it’s not like it’s something illegal,” said Lois Miller.

Lois Miller is the manager at Mo’s Convenience and Tobacco Store in Beech Island. She says the higher tax will hurt her business.

“We have a lot of customers that come from GA because of the taxes and the prices of cigarettes in GA, they come to South Carolina to purchase their cigarettes,” Miller said,

Lawmakers who are pushing for the tax hike say the Palmetto State needs to have a tax closer to its neighbors. The cigarette tax is 37 cents in Georgia and will soon go up to 35 cents in North Carolina.

Radiologist Alfonso Gay sees images of lung cancer caused by smoking everyday at Aiken Regional Hospital. He supports a higher tax.

“It definitely would help discourage young kids who have less money to spend, hopefully the older people it would at least cause them to decrease the amount of smoking,” Alfonso said.

Mo’s customers say when cigarette prices go up, they don’t smoke less, they simply change brands. So if they smoke Camels, they’ll go to this cheaper brand.

“We have some that said I don’t care if they $100 a carton, I’m still gonna smoke,” Miller said.

And time may tell if that is true.

The money South Carolina collects from the cigarette tax would go towards a health insurance plan for children and low-income workers. Democratic lawmakers are still working out the details of their tax plan. But they say they hope to introduce it as a bill in a few weeks.