Loudoun County supervisors look set to approve a 40-cent local cigarette tax in September.
A new state law authorizes counties to levy up to a cigarette tax up two cents per cigarette or 40 cents per pack of 20. Loudoun County is seeking admittance to the Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board, which would administer the tax. The county staff estimates the tax could bring $1.1 million to $2.8 million in revenue.
Incorporated towns already had the authority to tax cigarettes, and at a higher rate—the Town of Leesburg taxes cigarettes at 75 cents per pack, also administered by the NVCTB. The board also includes Fairfax County and cities and towns across Northern Virginia, including Hillsboro, Lovettsville, Middleburg, Purcellville and Round Hill. In Loudoun, only Hamilton does not already impose a cigarette tax.
Supervisors voted during a July 14 public hearing to send the proposed tax to a vote Sept. 8, their first meeting after their August recess.
Some convenience store owners had contacted supervisors to express their concern about the tax possibly chasing customers to neighboring jurisdictions with lower prices—although West Virginia and Maryland both tax cigarettes by much more, Fairfax County imposes only a 30-cent tax, and Clarke County does not yet tax cigarettes, although that county board is also considering doing so.
Supervisors were largely united in supporting the tax as a deterrent to smoking, especially among young people. A report prepared for the public hearing cites a 2001-2015 study that found higher taxes are tied to declines in smoking, particularly among young adults.
County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said she hopes to direct the cigarette tax money into the county’s Housing Trust Fund—and that if she could put a higher tax on cigarettes, she would.
“Obviously, I care about our small businesses, and obviously I care about our convenience stores, obviously. That goes without saying, and it is unfortunate that they will suffer,” Randall said. “But when I think about the long-term negative effect of nicotine on society, on babies who are born, it just doesn’t weigh out.”
“I’ve had some family members that have had emphysema and have had lung cancer, and I’ve seen what it does to families, said Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run). “And just to know that it usually starts with children at a young age smoking cigarettes, that a lot of people come to their demise.”
The local taxes are not permitted to stack—Loudoun County’s cigarette tax will only apply outside towns that have their own tax.
The commonwealth also levies 60 cents of tax per cigarette pack, meaning the total tax in Loudoun County if the tax is adopted will be $1 per pack.