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Ridgeway Market owner Raj Singh retrieves a pack of cigarettes for a customer at the Roseburg convenience store on Wednesday.

As of Friday morning, tobacco users in Douglas County and throughout Oregon will be feeling a different kind of burn.

During the November election, Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 108, which increased taxes on cigarettes, cigars and other electronic nicotine inhalants such as electronic cigarettes and vaping liquids.

The increase includes a $2 per pack increase on cigarettes and miniature cigars, raising the total tax on a 20-count pack to $3.33. Individual cigars will see an increase of 65% of the wholesale price of the cigar, not to exceed $1. Electronic cigarettes and vapes will also see a 65% increase in the wholesale price.

Smokeless tobacco and loose tobacco — such as rolling tobacco — are not impacted by the increase.

Over the past week, local tobacco retailers have seen a run on products similar to that of a “Black Friday” sale.

“It’s been extremely busy (Wednesday and Thursday),” said Holly Burke, manager of the Mini Pet Mart on Northwest Garden Valley Boulevard. “We have almost sold out of the most popular brands of cartons.”

At Hometown Liquor & Company Store in Winston, Manager Kristie Townsend said most of the store’s cigarette inventory had already been sold, with some customers buying as many as five cartons at a time before the average carton cost of a popular brand of cigarette jumps from $65 to $85.

“Our customers have been very frustrated with the new tax,” said Townsend, who also is a smoker. “It would be one thing if the money actually went where (the government) say it’s going to go, but where is it really going?”

The increases are estimated to raise $160 million annually for the state of Oregon. Ninety percent of the tax revenues from the measure would go to the Oregon Health Authority to pay for the treatment of sick people, especially those suffering from mental illnesses. The remaining 10% would go to tribal health providers and other culturally specific health programs for tobacco cessation efforts.

Retailers will have to pay the new tax on any remaining inventory after Dec. 31, 2020, which could prove to be a significant burden for independently owned retailers such as the Company Store. In fact, the store returned all of its electronic inhalant inventory to its distributor in exchange for other tobacco products not impacted by the tax increase.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown introduced the tax idea during the last legislative session. It was referred to the ballot along a largely party-line vote.

Taxpayers Association of Oregon urged voters to reject it saying a tax hike would hurt low-income Oregonians because they’re more likely to smoke. The group also says it would disproportionately hurt the small local shops that sell tobacco products.

Oregon has not seen a tobacco tax hike since 2002 and has one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the United States.

Still, smokers look at the most recent increase as a form of discrimination.

Todd Watkins, of Roseburg, purchased cigarettes at Mini Pet Mart on Thursday, the day before the price increase took effect.

“It feels like taxation without representation,” Watkins said. “It just feels wrong that those of us who do smoke have to pay for everything.

“It’s a sin tax. It’s something the majority doesn’t do but the majority gets to vote on.”

Donovan Brink can be reached at dbrink@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4219.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Donovan Brink is the cops and courts reporter for The News-Review.

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(9) comments

Aprylmorris

I love smoking!! Regardless

CitizenJoe

And tobacco companies love you. Plenty of people are into abusive relationships. Otherwise, a business model that kills its customers would not succeed so well.

NJ

Nicotine hits number 4 on the list of most addictive drugs. I can't say that without admitting that I too, smoke and have for 50 years. Yep, I've quit when I needed to or wanted to, but until I decide to quit for the duration I'll be paying the exorbitant price for them too. My habit is psychological, I justify it based on feeling after so much tragedy in my life I get to have one thing I continue to enjoy doing. No, not a great reason, it's just My reason. But I have no issue following the rules. When they began - no smoking in the work environment, then in restaurants, then in public. I don't even smoke in my house, no one really likes that nicotine saturation smell, not even smokers.

Some might ask why no measure to increase the tax on alcohol, when young people are becoming so addicted to booze they develop AUD, alcohol use disorder. AUD changes their brain to develop addiction to all things. The answer to that one is that brewing is an industry in Oregon, growing tobacco isn't and lobbying hard enough gets results.

CitizenJoe

Pigouvian taxes are generally favored by any rational people. Further, the opponents cited in the article appear to be ignorant of the fact that *we the voters* chose to do this--not our representatives--and further, where the money goes is a *matter of public record*.

The primary beneficiaries of this tax are the people who will be discouraged from smoking, and the people who have already been harmed by smoking.

It's a good thing. Thank you, Arthur Pigou.

And thank you, Oregon voters!

mworden

Thank you for pigouvian -- I had to look it up.

My interpretation of the comments about taxation without representation was that the fellow seemed to think it unfair that everyone got to vote on the tax, instead of allowing only smokers to vote on the issue. It's just not the way it works, especially since non-smokers help pay for programs that treat smoking related problems in society -- everything from fire departments to providing care for low birthweight babies.

CitizenJoe

mworden: you are right; I guess he objects to other people having representation without taxation (of the specific item in question); and he misunderstands democracy.

Marine Vet

"It feels like taxation without representation," said Todd Watkins of Roseburg. "It just feels wrong that those of us who do smoke have to pay for everything... LMAO.... Did Todd Watkins Not VOTE.? After Watching the Smoke SHop Allow People into the Store to make purchase's Still after 9 months of this Pandemic & Deaths just Skyrocketing across the Nation. My Wife made this statement to me. They { Roseburg } Wont be happy Til the Hospital here is Full & there are Freezer Trucks storing the Dead. Many many Business's here in Roseburg, care Nothing for the Patrons Customers but just the All Mighty Dollar. This all being said. My Wife & I just Quit Smoking. going on 3 weeks now. We Also have Made the decision to STOP Spending Our Hard Earned Monet at ANY Business's We Observe NOT caring about the People. This is NOT about Politics It IS about Humanity. Way To many Options in Today's World to have to Deal with Willful Ignorance. Our 2021 Resolution is. Your Business Allows Unmasked People in. We wont Allow Our Money into Your Business. Very Simple.

Marine Vet

After walking into the Smoke Shop Time after Time & Seeing that business. Still Allow Unmasked people to Enter & purchase items. This was Proof of FACT that THAT Business had ZERO Regards towards Me a Customer & my well being. Add to that FACT, They had ZERO Concern for the Community of Roseburg. My Wife & I Quit Smoking. You & Your Business Allow Unmasked People in. We Wont Spend Our Hard Earned Money at Your Business. There are Just way way way Too many Options in Today's World then having to Deal with the Willful Ignorance of Selfish People. There are Several Business's We will No Longer Visit & Spend Our Money at having watched just How they Responded to a Pandemic. Alot of Folks here in Roseburg are Just Selfish & Not the Wont Share the Mashed Potatoes & Meat Kinda Selfish but the ( F U ) Don't Care If You or Someone You Love Dies Kinda Selfish. Oh, Asking for a Fr.? We Great Yet.?

NJ

You must be talking about that " ( F U ) Don't Care If You or Someone You Love Dies Kinda Selfish." unmasked doctor who gave the virus to me while I sat, masked, in his small office and took that piece of paper he handed me as the visit was ending. Yeah, that same selfish health professional who personally called me to apologize because he had no idea he had it or was passing it on. I suppose we all could stop visiting our doctors, those selfish, uncaring, unfeeling, villains they are. Your issue seems to be less about a smoking tax and more about masks. It's not stopping me from going places I need to go. It only means I'll keep my mask on, use Clorox wipes on my hands and anywhere in my vehicle I've touched after I leave any public place, then thoroughly wash my hands after I put my items away at home. Think people. It's not that hard to stay safe. Masks. Antiseptic wipes. Hand washing. For as long as it takes to starve the virus out or get that vaccination and remain safe for at least 2 weeks after that. This will not be the last pandemic, figure it out - you either want everyone to live, or just want to try and kill others.

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