Palmetto State prepares for cigarette tax hike

South Carolina - By Jennifer Grove - bio | email

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - With the South Carolina 50-cent cigarette tax increase going into effect Thursday, many smokers are preparing to stock up on pre-tax hike cigarettes.

At Southside Tobacco in Socastee, they have been keeping a close eye on the cigarette tax increase from the beginning.

"I have been following this pretty closely," Matt Sellers admitted. "It's pretty much my way of life. I have to be able to support my family and this really hurts us."

He says the store stocked up a little bit to meet the demand for pre-tax hike cigarettes, but they are also hoping the shelves get slimmer before July 1. Sellers says the customers have already been doing their part to make that happen.

"I bought four cartons," Barbara Simonds said, double her usual purchase.

Simonds says she is sucking up the cost now, but in the long run she is not sure where she is going to pull the money from.

"I don't know," Simonds admitted. "We're on a limited budget ourselves and I've got to quit."

Fellow smokers are not convinced the increase will be enough to keep smokers from lighting up.

"People are addicted to smoking," said Debby Lynn Smiley, a smoker herself. "They are going to keep smoking. It almost does not matter how much it's going to cost."

Sellers added, "A lot of people say they are going to quit right off. Of course, I'm going to see them next week, I know that."

Sellers does believe the tax increase might be enough incentive to help people like Simonds cut back or push people to buy generics instead.

"What I think is going to happen is that people [who] smoke two packs a day, they're going to come and get one," Sellers said. "The government doesn't care about that because they're getting more money off that one pack so it evens out."

Sellers says their store is planning to close on July 1 for a few days because they believe demand will drop off initially. He says the time off will also allow the store to go through inventory.

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