One month in, Philly cigarette tax boosting biz in the ‘burbs

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 Stores beyond the Philadelphia city line advertise the state minimum. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Stores beyond the Philadelphia city line advertise the state minimum. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The $2 per pack Cigarette tax in Philadelphia has been in effect for more than a month and some people are hitting the road to avoid paying more for a pack.

 

If you pull into the WAWA parking lot in Trevose on Route 1 just over the city line it’s hard to find a parking space because it’s selling cigarettes at the state minimum, without the $2 Philadelphia cigarette tax that must be collected just down the road.

Smoker Joe Callahan says he stocks up here instead of buying in the city. 

“I don’t live around here, when I come out this way I pick up a couple packs,” he said. 

One after another people coming out of the convenience store are holding four, five packs or even a carton.

Alex Baloga of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association says the domino effect could be bad news for shops back in Philadelphia.

“That sale on cigarettes is lost and the sale on gas or a drink or a bag of chips or whatever is lost too,” he said. 

Baloga says his group is hopeful Philadelphia might reconsider the tax if it doesn’t produce as much revenue as projected.

The city says it already counted on some smokers avoiding the tax by heading to the suburbs.  It’s assuming it will collect more than $40 million this budget year from the tax and more in subsequent years when it will be collected for a full 12 months.

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