AUGUSTA (WGME) – Maine’s cigarette tax may be going up dramatically to more than $3 a pack.
Supporters said it will make Maine healthier, but smokers and some businesses are already fuming.
Cigarettes make up a majority of sales for most convenience stores. But this new tax could put some brands up over $10 a pack. Which they say could hurt business and cause many to quit.
Donald Smith, works at the Augusta Quick Mart said “$10 a pack, I mean you would work all week just to pay for cigarettes.”
At the Augusta Quick Mart cigarettes are the bread winner. Smith added “This is pretty much our sales. That and beer.”
But they are worried those sales could go up in smoke if a proposed tax increase passes.
“I’m a smoker myself, but I would definitely quit. I couldn’t do that.” said Smith.
And that’s just what Representative Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, said she’s hoping for. She said “A lot of people I’ve talked to about the bill said yea! That’s why I quit. It got too expensive and hopefully for health reasons.”
Right now, the tax on a pack of smokes is $2, but this new bill would raise it by a $1.50. Which means you’d pay $3.50 on top of regular price.
Back at the convenience store Smith stated “I think it would really discourage them. If they come in and they see $8.50, $9 a pack. That would be scary.” Opponents say a high tax would be a burden on the poor and hurt small business owners.
“I don’t see it as picking out a particular demographic. It’s a tax, it’s the same whoever you are.”
Representative McCrieght said the tax would bring in a projected $40 million in new revenue. $9 million of which would go to programs to help people stop smoking.
Representative McCrieght stated “In my dads case there were no cessation programs. It would have been great. It also would have been great if he never started.”
But businesses said if this passes, cigarette prices wont be the only thing going up. Smith said “You’d have to pick up sales some other aspect. One goes up, some might go down but I think on average everything else will go up.”
While these cigarette prices are staying the same for now, legislators are still working on this. A work session is scheduled to take place sometime next week.