Higher taxes on the horizon for cigarette smokers?

North Myrtle Beach, SC - By Chandi Lowry - bio | email

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina House leaders have approved raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack in the Palmetto State. Now, some tobacco store managers in the Grand Strand are worried the increase will affect their bottom line.

"People will buy their cigarettes here in the state versus going to North Carolina, Virginia or Georgia on their way home because South Carolina is the cheapest in the country," Jamie Goebel, manager at Nick's Cigar World in North Myrtle Beach, said.

Goebel adds if the cigarette tax goes up 50 cents a pack, sales will drop.

"It doesn't seem right for them to jump it up so much," agreed Jim Cartin, a fellow co-worker of Goebel's. "Then we are going to be competing with North Carolina, Georgia and some of the lower cigarette tax states and I'm just afraid that we will lose a lot of the revenue."

The owner of the store, Nick Goebel, is sending a letter to lawmakers that compares taxes per carton in different states.

"We propose to double it to $1.40. That would still keep us under the $3.50 in North Carolina and $3.75 for Georgia and Virginia," said Goebel.

Meanwhile, lawmakers said the tax increase will bring $136.1 million a year that can go towards Medicaid and cancer research.

House leaders tried to lower the increase to 30 cents instead of 50 cents, but they lost that battle on Wednesday. Gov. Mark Sanford plans to veto the bill, but lawmakers aren't sure if they have enough votes to overturn the veto.

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