OKLAHOMA CITY -- As the state’s new $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase goes into effect, at least one local retailer believes customer reaction will fall largely on the backs of lawmakers.
A spokesperson for Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip Corp. said the new tax, which state legislators passed in March but went into effect July 1, benefits Native American tribes whose businesses receive a state tax break on tobacco sales.
“Probably the only retailers who are happy are the tribes,” said Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs for QuikTrip. “They just received around a $50 million pay raise.”
Thornbrugh told CSP Daily News that customers who purchase tobacco are “very upset. Fortunately their ire is directed at legislators who voted for the increase.”
Prior to the change, cigarette taxes in the state were $1.03 per pack and $1.20 per 10 little cigars.
Acting on pressure from striking teachers, lawmakers approved a budget in late March that also included raising taxes on little cigars at the same rate as cigarettes, raising the fuel tax by 3 cents a gallon on gasoline and 6 cents a gallon on diesel, and increasing the gross oil-production tax from 2% to 5% on all wells.
Rex Rogers, manager of a Conoco station, told local TV station News 4 that he started changing cigarette prices on June 30 and worked into the early hours of the following July 1 to prepare for the change.
“I had to go and rebrand everything and then that took a lot of time [to] reprogram the computer,” Rogers told the news outlet. “It took me almost all day.” He said his store was very busy on Saturday with people stocking up on cigarettes right before the tax increase took effect.