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Radford City looks to increase cigarette, tobacco tax

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 11:27 PM EDT
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RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) - Radford City has taken its first step toward increasing tax on cigarettes and tobacco products.

At Monday night’s council meeting, there was a unanimous vote in support of increasing the rate in the city by 25 cents per package on a first reading.

It’s been more than a decade since the rate was raised in Radford, but council has been considering it for some time to help bring more revenue into the city. The General Assembly recently gave the option for local jurisdictions to increase their rates, and Radford could be one of the first hometowns to do this.

“Radford has struggled over the years to find revenue that can help us with our public safety program, revenue that can help with our initiatives for the city,” Mayor David Horton said.

Now, the city is looking to match nearby localities when it comes to the cigarette tax. Revenue can be hard to come by, especially given the tough year we just had. Currently, the city has a 15-cent tax on tobacco products, but the move would take it up to 40.

“This is not a punitive measure, this is something that puts us in alignment with our other localities, this is something that benefits our city from a tax revenue perspective,” City Councilman Onassis Burress said.

Blacksburg and Christiansburg are already in that 30- to 40-cent tax range.

The reading of the ordinance was met by no opposition inside council chambers beyond two letters sent in from the community. One was from a local business, another from an organization of tobacco retailers.

“If there was significant opposition to this, we likely would have had more feedback than what we received,” Horton said.

The mayor offered to extend implementation until September for further consideration, but council decided to implement it by summer.

“Though there is a perceived hardship, they do have the ability to sell through their 15-cent stamps, which gives them ample time to collect revenues, sales from those existing 15-cent stamps prior to the 40-cent stamp being implemented,” Burress said.

Horton said increasing the tax could help bring thousands more dollars in revenue back to Radford that could be used toward public health and safety and help to further the goals of the city

Monday’s vote was not final. There will be a second reading at council’s meeting May 24 — then it would be 30 days before the measure goes into effect.

Council can still change how the ordinance is written, especially if there is more community pushback before that time.

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