Salem Proposes Tax Increase on Cigarettes - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Salem Proposes Tax Increase on Cigarettes

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Dodging tax increases for quite some time now, Salem is currently one of the cheapest places to buy cigarettes in Virginia.

Smokers in Salem are taxed well below the national average. City Manager Kevin Boggess says they rank one of the lowest in the nation.

Salem city council voted to approve a .30 cent tax increase per pack during the first reading of the proposal, and will vote for a final time Monday night.

Recently city council voted to increase meals and lodging tax, Boggess says cigarettes are next in line.

"The cigarette tax was just one more piece of that. It wasn't picked on for any particular reason except that we have looked at the other taxes and we have looked at trying to spread the burden across all of the taxes in the city," Boggess said.

Salem tobacco retailers say the tax would be devastating to their business.

Kamlesh Jhaveri owns the Eagle Discount Tobacco store in Salem. He has openly spoke out against the tax increase during council public hearings.

"It is definitely going to hurt the business," Jhaveri said. " If the people stop coming I can't pay out of pocket(for my business) so we will have to close down the business and find some other opportunities."

Jhaveri says Salem Cigarette retailers will lose their edge on Roanoke County businesses. He says many of his customers travel from the city to Salem in order to save money on cigarettes.

"Once they see that our cigarette prices are high they will quit coming into our store."

Concerns that he along with other owners are voicing to the city; concerns that Boggess said are well noted.

"That's something that we take very seriously," Boggess said. "But we believe that forty-five cents is reasonable compared to other jurisdictions both in the Roanoke Valley and across the state.

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