Smokers may have to cough up more dough
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Proposed new taxes on tobacco products could mean some area residents will be seeing more of their money go up in smoke.
Hartselle's City Council is considering increasing its tax on tobacco products from 4 cents to 8 cents per package on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and from 2 cents to 4 cents per cigar.
The council will vote on the increase at its July 22 meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hartselle City Hall. If approved, the increase would go into effect Sept. 1.
The council is rushing to increase the city's tobacco tax before a state-imposed deadline. 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.
And Riley's plan includes increases on tobacco products, too.
Riley's plan calls for the state's levy on cigarettes to increase from 16.5 cents to 31 cents per pack. The increase would generate some $52.4 million per year for the state.
Alabama voters will have their say on the governor's package on Sept. 9.
If both increases are approved, the total tax on a pack of cigarettes for Hartselle consumers would increase from 20.5 cents to 39 cents, a figure that's still lower than the national average. Nationally, cigarette taxes average some 70.5 cents per package.
Not all Hartselle City Council members are buying in to the local increase.
"I don't smoke, chew or dip, but I think people who smoke have rights, too," Councilman Dick Carter said. "I don't know if people who smoke should be punished."
Others said while they would like to see the number of smokers decrease, they doubted any amount of tax would serve as a deterrent.
"You're not going to prevent anyone from smoking with an extra 4 cents per pack," Councilman Frank Jones said.
Tobacco tax revenue currently nets the city some $65,000 per year. That figure is expected to double if the local tax increase is approved.