Cigarette tax hike would hurt convenience stores


To the Editor:

Governor Gina Raimondo has introduced a budget for FY 2018 that claims to promote business growth and help the lowest earning Rhode Islanders by increasing the minimum wage. Those are laudable goals, but in reality if her budget is enacted, it will actually hurt some of Rhode Island’s smallest existing businesses, like ours, while also hurting many of the citizens she seeks to help with a wage increase.

Time and again, Governor Raimondo and past governors have sought to hike the cigarette excise tax to raise new revenue. This year, the governor wants a 50-cent per pack tax hike to raise $8.7 million to pay for things such as outdoor recreation projects. But in reality, such a tax hike is shortsighted and unfair and will have negative consequences on those that can least afford it.

Cigarette sales are the top revenue generator for convenience stores like ours, and account for nearly 32 percent of all convenience store in-store revenue, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. Here in Rhode Island, nearly 60 percent of all convenience stores are locally owned and play a very important role in the economy and provide jobs. We know firsthand that every time the cigarette tax goes up, the number of people coming into our stores goes down. And many of those sales simply go to Connecticut and Massachusetts where cigarettes are cheaper. We lose not only cigarette sales but also the sales of other convenience items like snacks, milk and bread. And when we lose sales, we are faced with the difficult choice of cutting jobs and/or hours of our hourly employees. Incidentally, tax paid cigarette sales in Rhode Island have declined by 3 percent a year for the last ten years.

Additionally, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 percent of Rhode Island adults who earn less than $15,000 are smokers, while 10 percen of adults who earn more than $50,000 are smokers. That means those who would benefit from the governor’s minimum wage increase would be hurt the most by a cigarette tax hike. That’s not fair. Furthermore, why should those people who can least afford a cigarette tax hike be responsible for footing the bill for recreation programs that are enjoyed by all Rhode Islanders?

This is a tax hike that doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t add up. We urge the General Assembly to reject the Governor’s proposal to increase the cigarette excise tax.


Shop-N-Go, Warwick

Sunita Pathana

Harss Express, Warwick

Sam’s Food Store, Warwick

City Line, Cranston

Al-Mall Daily Mart, Cranston

Reese Patel

Gulf Express, Cranston


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Raising the cigarette tax is, of course, a dumb idea. But do not get seduced into thinking the raising the minimum wage will help anyone. Low wage earners will see unemployment hikes because fewer businesses will be able to afford to hire these people. A "job" is a contract (written or implied) between a willing employee and employer. Government should have no role here unless working conditions become unsafe or one party violates the terms of employment. Otherwise, any "minimum wage" laws should be abolished.

Thursday, May 18, 2017