SC lawmakers vote to keep cigarette tax hike

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina legislators voted Wednesday to keep a 30-cent cigarette tax increase in the state budget, but repeatedly rejected proposals to hike the tax any higher or raise money in other ways.

The House refused by a 106 to 12 vote to remove the 30-cent a pack increase from the state's $5 billion spending plan. That's down from $7 billion two years ago.

The House also voted overwhelmingly to keep a $10 million loan to the state's only PGA tournament in the state budget.

South Carolina's 7 cents-per-pack cigarette tax is the nation's lowest and has not changed since 1977. A 30-cent increase would make the tax equal to Georgia's and still 8 cents per pack cheaper than North Carolina's.

Nationwide, the average state cigarette tax is $1.34 per pack, with Rhode Island ranking first at $3.46.$19.8 million since 2007.

Justin McMillen says if the new tax gets final approval from the Senate, the higher price still ill not deter him from smoking.

"Compared to other places everything is kind of cheaper here in the south, I'm going to keep smoking" said McMillen.

But other people like Dominique Kee, say the price of cigarettes are getting out of hand, and he plans to quite all together.

"Nearly $10 to $15 a week and that's what, $60 a month times 12 - that's a lot of money you can save a year," said Kee.

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