Matt Hauser, President of The Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association , says retailers are reporting a drop in tobacco sales — up to 25% at locations near the state borders — since the tax increase of a dollar a pack took effect on January 1st. Hauser says retailers are losing revenue, and so is the state.
“We doubt that 25% of the adult smokers have quit in the first four or five months here in Wisconsin. So the sales are likely going out of state or to the Internet and the state is not getting any revenue from those sales, either.”
The intent of the tax hike was to discourage people from smoking, while increasing the amount of money for tobacco cessation programs. Maureen Busalacchi ( pronounce ) , Executive Director of Smoke Free Wisconsin , says the evidence is on their side. She says the demand for cessation assistance has increased substantially.
“What we see is that there are a lot of red herrings out there about what people are doing, but we know in the first three months of the year that 20,000 people have called the Quit Line … and so we know a lot of smokers are quitting.”
That's two years' worth of Quit Line calls in just the first three months of this year.
Hauser says people are crossing the border to get cheaper cigarettes and retailers simply want a level playing field.
Busalacchi says people might stockpile for a brief period of time, but with the high price of gas, smokers will eventually go back to their local retailers or just quit altogether.
NOTE: Smokers can call the Quit Line at 1-800-Quit-Now for a free two-week nicotine replacement therapy starter kit.
Compare state cigarette taxes: ( tobacco free kids .)
- Wisconsin: 1.77
- Minnesota: 1.49
- Iowa: 1.36
- Illinois: 98, but lawmakers are pushing to double that to 1.88
- Chicago: 3.66
- Michigan: 2.00
- New York City: 4.25 (on July 1st, making a pack of cigs 9 bucks!)
- South Carolina: .07 (Yes, seven cents)