Cigarette smokers who purchase packs in Charlottesville may soon have to pay more. A tax hike on cigarettes is one proposal city councilors are looking at in their budget talks this week.
Charlottesville property owners won't have to pay higher taxes, but smokers might have to shell out 20 more cents per pack.
The budget is one Charlottesville City Council's toughest tasks, but the spending proposal is looking good for most people who own property in the city.
“The tax rate is staying the same, so it is quite low and it is staying the same,” said councilor Kristin Szakos.
But cigarette smokers may have to shell out some more for a pack of cigarettes. The budget builds in a 20 cent tax increase per pack.
“It would actually put us slightly above the state average, but below a lot of cities in Virginia,” Szakos said.
If approved, the tax will go up from 35 to 55 cents on each pack of smokes sold in the city. It would bring in an additional $265,000. But for councilor Bob Fenwick, it's not about the new revenue for city coffers.
“I've seen what cigarette smoking does to internal organs and it is not pretty,” he said. “It is not pretty now and it is costly later on, so if there has to be some kind of tax and in general, I am against additional taxes, then the cigarette tax is one that I look at very closely.”
“We are doing it not so much as a revenue generator as an attempt to make it less attractive to smoke especially for young people,” Szakos said.
Councilors admit smokers may drive out into Albemarle County to avoid paying the extra 20 cents. They expect some small business owners in the city to oppose the proposed tax.
“There will be some opposition,” Fenwick said. “It is a commodity that stores sell like anything and it is part of their business.”
The city council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday night in City Hall. There will be time for community members to voice concerns about the proposed tax.