The Cigarette Tax Passes: What They’re Saying

Will smokers leave the city to buy tobacco in the suburbs?

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As we told you Tuesday, the cigarette tax to fund Philly schools has finally passed both houses of the Pennsylvania Legislature. Today, we bring you reaction to that news:

Philadelphia Business Journal on how it helps Tom Corbett:

This bill’s passage could be perceived as a political win for Corbett, who is suffering in the gubernatorial election polls partly due to his perceived lack of help in funding the struggling Philadelphia education system. If it gives him the boost needed to catch front-runner Tom Wolf remains to be seen.

…and Mayor Nutter offering a caution:

“I want to be clear: while the revenue generated by the cigarette tax was essential to balancing the district’s budget, it is not sufficient funding to provide the high-quality education that every Philadelphia student deserves,” he said in a statement.

CBS Philly offers a similar note of caution:

Philadelphia’s Vincent Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is pleased that the logjam has been broken, but says the delay was costly.

“Every week that it takes to implement this is a lost week of one and a half million dollars. That’s not acceptable. They kids are not getting an educational environment that they deserve to have. They’re just as important as any other school child across the state of Pennsylvania,” Hughes said.

The Patriot-News does some math:

Many midstate lawmakers have opposed the bill, arguing it sets a bad precedent for other cash-strapped municipalities, and could harm state cigarette tax revenues if city residents decide to seek out cheaper smokes in Delaware or New Jersey.

If Philadelphia adopts the local tax, state and local taxes on each pack of cigarettes sold in the city would total $3.60: $2 for the city and $1.60 for the state. Taxes in New Jersey are $2.70 per pack; in Delaware, $1.60.

The Inquirer isn’t too worried about losing cigarette business to the ‘burbs:

The cigarette tax approved by Pennsylvania lawmakers Tuesday will soon make a pack of $6.65 Newports cost $2 more at the corner store that Hanif Woods patronizes in West Philadelphia. But don’t think for a minute that he or his friends will bother hustling to the nearby county line for a price break.

Even with the promise of much lower prices in the suburbs — a short drive from Jesly Food Market at 60th Street and Girard Avenue — the 24-year-old Woods didn’t expect his shopping habits to change when the levy goes into effect.

Call it apathy, or, as Woods put it: “People are lazy.”