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April 7, 2013

Tobacco tax hike plans raise concerns

Tobacco tax proposals concern smokers, store owners


Those who frequent the border stores — stopping off to buy cigarettes, gas, beer and snacks — said the Bay State’s proposed $1 increase gives them more of an incentive to buy cigarettes in New Hampshire. That includes many people who live in Massachusetts.

The New Hampshire store owners said any kind of tax increase hurts cigarette sales and affects sales of other items. They said some people will decide to quit smoking and not return to the store until a couple of weeks later — after deciding it was too tough to kick the habit.

Alka Patel, owner of Cousins Convenience Store at 116 Bridge St. in Pelham, said she would welcome an increase in store sales if Massachusetts passes the $1 tax hike. She doesn’t think a 20-cent increase in New Hampshire will make a big difference in tobacco sales even if people decide to spend less money on other items.

“People will still buy cigarettes,” she said.

Mike Adalla, owner of BP gas station and convenience store at 32 Bridge St. in Pelham, is concerned an increase in New Hampshire’s tobacco tax would affect sales of all items at his store. He’s also worried about a proposal to raise the state’s gas tax.

“It’s going to hurt business,” Adalla said of the tobacco tax proposal. “Every time they raise it, volume goes down. Of course, we are going to get more business if they raise it in Massachusetts, but I would rather have them leave it the way it is.”

Massachusetts residents, mostly from nearby Dracut and Lowell, account for 85 percent of Adalla’s business. The store is several hundred yards from the state line.

“Cigarettes, gas, beer — everything costs less in New Hampshire,” said a customer from Dracut.

While a typical pack of cigarettes costs about $8 in Massachusetts, the same pack costs approximately $6.50 in New Hampshire, Adalla said.

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