The tax stems from a bill that the Virginia General Assembly passed in 2020 which allows for counties to collect a cigarette tax up to $.40 per twenty cigarettes (the number that is in a typical pack).
The BOS passed the tax in a 4-1 vote. District 4 Supervisor G. Stephen Roane, Jr. voted against the measure. He stated before the vote that despite the $650,000 in revenue the tax is expected to net, the timing of the measure was bad.
“To hit a small business community, even this small business community, with a tax burden like this as they are getting back on their feet after the pandemic,” Roane said. “It’s the right thing to do, but the wrong time to do it. I would prefer to see this deferred and to see it phased in over time.”
District 5 Supervisor Thomas G. Sheppard, Jr. said that putting the tax on cigarettes would keep York County from raising taxes across the board on things like property and sales taxes. .
“In York County we have business that we have to maintain and do,” Shepperd said. “$650,000 is just going to be the 2021-22 cycle. You get into the next year and it will be about $900,000 and that will get us some police and a few other things. Otherwise we will have to increase the tax rate and that is something that I really don’t want to do.”
York County merchants who rely heavily on cigarette sales also strenuously objected to the tax.
Bill Winfree, owner of Winfree Firearms, 4018 George Washington Memorial Highway, said during the April BOS meeting that the new tax will discourage people from coming to York County to buy cigarettes.
“We’ve got people coming from Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, even Poquoson,” Winfree said during the public comments portion of the April BOH meeting. “They will now have a lower tax rate than us. We are a large volume, low profit business. We have to sell a large amount of cigarettes to make money.”
The tax as it is written only effects cigarettes. There has not been any tax levied on other products such as cigars and smokeless tobacco.