Store owner protests cigarette tax hike

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By Jesef Williams

Fred Brackett is fuming about the tax hike on tobacco.

Brackett, who owns FB Enterprises on Charlotte Highway, which sells and distributes cigarettes, closed his business Wednesday as a sign of his opposition to the 62-cents federal tax increase on cigarettes. The hike, which took effect Wednesday, brings that tax to over $1.

Brackett called it Obama Tax Day.

Brackett, who sells third-tier, generic cigarettes, said he’s upset mainly for two reasons.

He believes President Obama broke his promise that he wouldn’t raise taxes for 95 percent of Americans. While many people looked at this as changes in income taxes, Brackett said he was assured that Obama meant all types of tax.

This is “somebody saying one thing and doing another,” Brackett said.

Brackett also thinks the tax is unfair because it will mostly affect the people who can least afford to absorb it.

“I still look at the man who can’t afford it and it bothers me,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Early this year, Obama signed into law the tax increase, which is projected to generate $32.8 billion to go toward the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, where the federal government will dole out money to the 50 states.

The money will be used to provide health insurance to children. Four million additional children are expected to be covered under the plan.

Brackett said he supports children’s health insurance but wonders if cigarette taxes would be able to support the program long term.

Proponents of the tax hike say it will deter people from smoking.

Brackett argues that fewer people smoking will decrease the amount of tax dollars created each year.

“The government thinks that every time they need money, they hit the cigarettes. They’re taxing them to death,” he said. “When people quit buying cigarettes, where are they going to get the taxes for SCHIP?”  

Besides closing his business Wednesday, Brackett is still flying the American flag outside his business at half staff.

He said his protest was not for his benefit, because he believes his business will thrive under the new tax.

He predicts people who buy first-tier cigarettes, such as Marlboro, may move over to the generics to save money.

As the federal tax increased this week, South Carolina lawmakers are looking at increasing the state tax on a pack of cigarettes, which, at 7 cents a pack, is the lowest in the nation.

State legislators are looking at raising the tax by 50 cents.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152