A bill to raise Iowa’s cigarette tax by one dollar a pack got its first airing at the capitol today. A representative for Casey’s convenience stores testified that Iowa retailers will lose customers to neighboring states as smokers will cross the state border for cheaper cigarettes. Theresa Quilty with the American Cancer Society agreed that will happen, but only on a temporary basis.
“There is some influx of travel within that first six month period of time after an increase when you do have a border community that is significantly lower,” she said. “But well within that six month period of time the smokers do go back to their habitual buying practices.” Iowa’s tobacco tax is among the lowest in the country, and Quilty says research shows little evidence smokers will cross into neighboring states for long after the tax is raised.
“Many, many states have increased their tobacco taxes significantly since 2002,” she says, and a very small percentage of cigarette sales occur across borders, according to Quilty. The Casey’s spokesman said his company would support a smaller, 64 cent increase in cigarette taxes, bringing the full state tax on cigarettes to a dollar a pack. Ironically, the Senate subcommittee meeting to discuss the cigarette tax was held in what’s still called the Senate “Smoking Room” as it was the last room in the capitol where smoking was allowed until a building-wide ban took effect.