New tax has S.C. smokers heading to Ga.

News 12 at 11 o'clock, July 1, 2010

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Governor Mark Sanford vetoed an increase on cigarette taxes for more than a decade, but this year lawmakers fought that.

By legislators overriding the veto, cigarette tax is increasing 50 cents per pack in South Carolina.

For years it's been Georgians crossing the river and coming to places like gas stations for cheaper packs of cigarettes, but some smokers say that's about to change.

When Chris Case fills up his tank in North Augusta it costs him about $2.50 a gallon.

He doesn't like paying that now that it's higher than years past and said he also doesn't like the fact that the cigarette tax is going up.

"It bothers me a lot because I spend a lot of money on cigarettes," Case said. "But I'll just find somewhere over there (Georgia) and buy them discount."

Case said he'll go to Georgia now, where the tax is only 37 cents a pack.

But Case said South Carolina cigarettes being taxed 57 cents a pack may force him to break the habit.

"I've been trying to quit for a while so this could help out," he said.

Though some will go across the river to get cigarettes it also means they won't be filling up at times. But cigarette shops like Cheap Cigarettes said they will be hit just as hard.

"I anticipate I'm going to lose about two-thirds of my business on this side of the river," Doc Scheduler of Cheap Cigarettes said.

Scheduler said two-thirds of his business comes from Georgia, but only problem now it won't be cheaper than Georgia.

"We've been committed to our name, Cheap Cigarettes. We've been committed to giving people the best deal on cigarettes that we can," he said. "Right now, the best deal that can provide them is going to be in Georgia."

Pamela Norman drove over from Georgia and she said she's a devoted customer and will stay that way.

"As long as they sell these (Seneca Cigarettes) here, I'll keep coming," Norman said. "I know it's a little higher, but I'll pay for them."

But while she said she will keep coming back for Seneca Cigarettes others like Case said they will go to Georgia or quit completely.

The tax is expected to raise $135 million a year, which most of the money would pay for health care programs.


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