Oklahoma Cigarette Sales Declining 1 Year After Tax Hike

Storme Jones | Tuesday, July 2nd 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY – One year after state lawmakers passed a dollar tax hike on cigarettes, the Oklahoma Tax Commission says the number of packs sold have dropped by 25% compared to the same time period a year ago.

“It’s a big number,” State Department of Health Interim Tobacco Manager Christin Kirchenbauer said.

In 2018, the increase was part of a revenue raising bundle that included a 3% increase on gasoline and a 6% increase on diesel to help fund a teacher pay raise.

According to the commission, since June 30, 2018, more than 168 million packs have been sold in the state and on tribal lands. That’s nearly 60 million fewer than over the same period in 2018.

With the 2019 fiscal year coming to a close, the state also raked in an additional $104 million, compared to fiscal year 2018, from taxes on cigarettes even with the dip in sales.

However, not all retailers say they’ve seen sales decline. Rex Rogers is the manager at the Conoco station on Kelley and NE63rd Street. He says people have begun buying cheaper brands and using coupons.

“The manufactures have gotten real cleaver,” Rogers said. “They have the electronic coupons so you can put in what brand you use, and they’ll kick you back a coupon. And they make it retail friendly, and it will tell them what the closest retailer is that accepts that coupon.”

Kirchenbauer says the Health Department will need more time to analyze the new data to determine if things like vaping or traveling out of state affected the reduction in sales.

But state health experts say the reduction is a positive step in the right direction.

“I was please. I was happy,” Kirchenbauer said. “That means fewer people are smoking. They might not have quit, but that means they are smoking less, which is going to help their health, is going to help Oklahomans. We are going to have better health outcomes because we are consuming less.”

The State Health Department urges people working to quit smoking to reach out to the Oklahoma tobacco helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on July 3, 2019