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In Search of Cheap Cigarettes

July 29th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Since the state cigarette tax jumped by a dollar on the first of July, some North Florida convenience stores are seeing fewer cigarette sales. Floridians are streaming across Florida Georgia state line for cheap cigarettes.

At this convenience store a mile and a half north of the border, there were four cars with Florida plates. Jan from Tallahassee pulled in and made it five.

I bet you came to buy cigarettes we asked. Jan didnt want to give us her last name, but responded Yes I did as a matter of fact Its the principle. They dont need to single out smokers for tax.

Kathy McKee started making the 40 from Crawfordville mile trip July first.

We come at least twice a month. She says she buys two cartons each time. That means she is costing Florida about forty dollars a month. Could Be she responds.

Jim Smith from the association of convenience stores says it is still early to pinpoint lost sales in Florida, but…Close to Georgia and Alabama, my retailers are reporting a drop in sales. How big? We ask. Right now, ten to fifteen percent for some of them says Smith.

Another threat to state revenues are internet sales. This site offers cheap smokes and promises no reporting. Marie Carpenter from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation says you could get stuck for the tax if you get caught. The state has hired 7 new auditors to monitor sales.

If the companies dont pay to us, we can go to the consumers to collect that tax, says Carpenter.

Under Florida law, it is legal to possess 3 cartons of cigarettes without a Florida tax stamp, but it is illegal to buy them over the internet and not pay the tax.

If you feel guilty about not paying the state for cigarettes bought over the internet, you can download a form the Florida Department of Business on the internet at: http://www.myflorida.com/dbpr/consumers.html

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