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City scrambles to raise tobacco tax

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Tobacco users in Hartselle may soon be paying more for their guilty pleasures.
The city is scrambling to raise its taxes on cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. The state has put all municipalities on alert that any tax increases on tobacco products must be done by Sept. 30, providing Gov. Bob Riley's tax revenue package is approved by voters Sept. 9.
The city has not decided how much to increase the tax.
Currently, Hartselle taxes cigarettes at 4 cents per package and cigars at 2 cents each. Those rates are the same in Decatur and Athens and 1-cent lower than Cullman. Morgan County does not tax tobacco products.
Whatever the increase, the city will soon be trading in its old cigarette stamp system for a new direct collection method.
"The stamps cost us money and cuts into the revenue we receive," City Attorney Larry Madison said.
Tobacco tax revenue nets the city some $65,000 per year. It currently spends about $6,000 for tobacco stamps.
According to City Clerk Rita Lee, the new collection procedure will be done through the vendors instead of individual merchants.