Cigarette Tax Affects Philadelphia

When City Council introduced Cigarette Tax Legislation more than one year ago, some smokers on campus began to worry about what it would mean for them. For some smokers, it meant a change in lifestyle. Others said the cost has not bothered them.

The City of Philadelphia passed a bill in October 2014 adding $2.50 to the cost of a pack of cigarettes. Some students said, in an effort to avoid paying the tax, they buy cigarettes outside city lines, where they are not affected by the tax.

“You can just do one trip and buy a carton or two or three and come back for the whole month,” said Abdullah Alwabel, a senior at Temple.

Alwabel said he goes as far as buying cigarettes online or getting friends to pick up cartons for him outside Philadelphia. A big reason, he said, is the price adds up.

Partly because of this, Philadelphia businesses selling cigarettes are struggling. Shankr Pant owns Eagle Food Mart, near Broad and Diamond Streets. He said the tax has impacted his business in a large way.

“It’s affecting more than 50% of our cigarettes and the whole business is also getting down lower,” he said. “It’s getting painful.”

But while the drop might be hurting local business, education is getting a much needed boost in funding.

Last year alone, the tax raised more than 50 million dollars for schools, and is projected to raise 58 million dollars this year.

Despite the funding, Carver High School Principal Ted Domers said more needs to be done.

“We can’t provide kids the attention they need,” he said. “When resources become thin like this, then there’s only so much time in the day, and there’s only so much space.”

Councilman David Oh, a sponsor of the tax, told Temple Update it has been successful.

“(It’s) successful to the extent it used money it needed to keep schools afloat for a while,” said Oh.

But, he said, the tax is only a temporary fix and not a permanent solution to closing the gap in funding.

Even the Philadelphia School District said taxing cigarettes is not what’s important.

“In terms of funding, it’s not really a question of what kind of tax, but rather having sustainable, recurring revenues that the district can depend on,” said Philadelphia School District Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson.

Back on campus, Pant knows the tax benefits schools, but that does not keep him from being concerned.

“Because of the cigarettes, the whole business is down…we went to City Hall, but they didn’t listen, nothing.”

Despite uncertainty from Pant and other business owners, the tax will remain in effect until at least 2019, when it is up for reevaluation.


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