FOX47 NEWS - Cigarette Taxes Go Up 75 Cents

Jeff Angileri
Aug 31, 2009, 10:45 PM

Cigarettes in Wisconsin are about to get more expensive.

The statewide increase in tobacco taxes takes effect Tuesday -- an additional 75 cents per pack.

Wisconsin will have the 5th highest cigarette tax in the country -- at $2.52 per pack.

On Monday, across the state, consumers encountered near-empty store shelves, and popular cigarette brands sold out.

Smokers made one last rush to buy tobacco products, before the price went up.

"Every time there's an increase, it seems like our sales go up," said Steve Agee, store manager at Knuckleheads Tobacco. "It's as if they're trying to buy up enough where they're gonna beat the next increase."

The downtown store saw an increase in customer traffic. Workers at Knuckleheads don't know how a $0.75 per pack tax will affect sales, but they're raising prices just in case.

"We're going up the amount that the tax is going up, so we can compensate for that," Agee said. "Because we're not gonna make as much money off cigarettes as we usually did."

The American Cancer Society estimates the new tobacco tax will make 17,000 people quit smoking, and stop 33,000 kids from picking up the habit -- dramatically reducing heart and lung disease, and cancer.

But while health advocates are cheering, smokers are sneering.

"It's hard enough trying to buy cigarettes and have enough for groceries, laundry, and rent, and all that stuff," said Jacob Bithorn. "It's ridiculous."

"I think most people who smoke will just pay more," said Nathan Eggert. "Maybe a few people who are on the edge will think twice about it -- but other than that not really."

Businesses that will likely be most vulnerable are those along the state border. The per-pack tax is lower in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan.

Taxes on other tobacco products are also going up tomorrow, including chewing tobacco, cigars, and pipe tobacco.

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