City proposes 10-cent-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes

Published 9:52 am Friday, May 18, 2012

FRANKLIN—City Manager Randy Martin’s suggestion to raise Franklin’s cigarette tax 20 percent for next year’s budget has storeowners and smokers fuming.

Frank Mulhi, owner of Man Market, says a 10-cent increase in the city's cigarette tax would hurt his business. -- Kate Archer | Tidewater News

During Monday’s work session on the $52 million draft budget, Martin suggested raising the tax from 50 cents a pack to 60 cents to increase revenue by $23,000. The tax generated $239,000 for the current budget.

“I don’t agree with that,” said smoker Ricky Kigler of Franklin from outside the Holiday Mart at 103 E. Second St. “I need to quit anyway, and if they keep going up, I’m going to quit.”

Franklin resident Dennis Faulk agreed, saying he will shop for the best price.

Frank Mulhi, owner of Man Market on South Street, said the increase will drive customers to Isle of Wight and Southampton counties because by law counties can’t charge a cigarette tax.

“They think they’re going to keep them from smoking, but they’re not going to stop them,” Mulhi said.

A pack of Newport cigarettes at Man Market will increase to $5.67.

Axay Patel, owner of Express Deli and Food Mart at 500 Pretlow St., said cigarette sales make up about 20 percent of his business. He also believes customers will shop elsewhere if the tax is increased.

“I sell more cigarettes than beer,” he said. “It seems as soon as you’re doing good, they try to tax you more.”

Chesapeake and Suffolk each charge a 50-cent tax per pack, while Virginia Beach charges 65 cents. Hampton and Newport News each charge 85 cents per pack.

The budget also calls for an 18 percent increase in the real estate tax rate to balance an expected 10 percent drop in property values.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, June 11, at City Hall.