Lawmakers Want To Stop California Tobacco Tax Loophole

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It’s almost been a month since California’s tobacco tax went into effect, and one tobacco giant is trying to ease the blow on smokers.

Philip-Morris, the maker of Marlboro, is offering coupons through June for its cigarettes. The tobacco giant’s move is under fire, and Sacramento Assemblyman Kevin McCarty proposed a bill calling for retailers to ban coupons and any kind of discount on tobacco products.

“It’s breaking my bank, you know?” said Hector Perez, a cigarette smoker.

Perez is new to the smoking scene, he’s only been doing it a year, and already feeling the heat.

“I go through a pack a day and it’s kinda hard on me,” said Perez.

Since California’s $2 tobacco tax hike went into effect April 1, Perez says he’s been forced to buy cheaper brands, downgrading from the pricey American Spirits and Marlboro cigarettes he usually smokes.

“I’m like buying Mavericks and Camel Crushers, cheaper than the cigarettes I smoke,” added Perez.

Phillip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, responded to the tax hike by sending out an email to its clients in California, offering them a discount through June.

McCarty is fighting back. He introduced a new bill Thursday, which would ban tobacco retailers from accepting coupons or any type of discount on tobacco products.

Abdul Hashimi manages the I R Smoke Shop in West Sacramento. He says he hasn’t accepted any coupons for a long time.

“We have a sign that says we have no coupons,” said Abdul Hashimi.

Since the new tobacco tax, Hashimi says business has gone downhill. He usually gets an average of 80 customers each day — now — Hashimi says he’s lucky if he gets up to 15 customers.

“We are very slow, no customers. We are struggling to survive,” Hashimi said.

Just last month, Hashimi’s smoke shop saw a major surge in tobacco sales. Customers were stocking up on cigarettes before the $2 tax hike kicked in.

“We had an extremely big sale, $6,000,” Hashimi said.

It’s a waiting game for Hashimi, to see whether the clients who stocked up will return in the next few months. If the downhill trend continues, Hashimi says the smokeshop could close.

A bill similar to the one McCarty is proposing has been introduced in New York and enacted in two Bay Area cities already.

More from Angela Musallam
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