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Cigarette tax headed higher in Fairfax on July 1

Hike to 40 cents per pack will be first rise in county since 2004

Fairfax County’s cigarette tax will rise by one-third starting July 1, following a unanimous vote April 16 by the Board of Supervisors.

The county government will begin levying a 2-cent tax per cigarette sold, or 40 cents per pack of 20, which is the maximum rate allowed by state code. Officials estimate that, base on the number of cigarette packs now being sold, the tax increase will generate an additional $1.3 million in revenue annually.

The Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board, organized in 1970, administers the county’s enforcement and collection of the cigarette tax.

County officials raised the tax rate from 5 cents to 20 cents per pack of 20 cigarettes starting Sept. 1, 2004, and boosted it again to 30 cents per pack beginning July 1, 2005.

Fairfax County – which currently charge the same rate as Spotsylvania and Stafford counties and the town of Clifton – had not raised that tax in 19 years.

Those four localities are on the low end of the spectrum. Arlington, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties charge the state maximum of 40 cents per pack of 20 smokes.

The state government allows cities and towns that charged at least 40 cents per pack as of Jan. 1, 2020, to maintain their higher rates.

The city of Manassas Park and towns of Haymarket, Dumfries, Purcellville, Leesburg and Herndon charge 75 cents per pack, while the town of Vienna and cities of Falls Church and Fairfax charge 85 cents per pack. The leader of the pack, as it were, is the city of Alexandria, which charges $1.26.

In addition, the state government imposes a tax of 3 cents per cigarette, and the federal tax is $1.01 per pack.

Supervisor James Walkinshaw (D-Braddock) said the District of Columbia charges more than $5 per pack and Maryland officials appear to be moving toward a tax of $5 per pack starting July 1.

Virginia currently levies a state tax on vape and liquid nicotine, but does not allow local taxes on them, he said. Walkinshaw recommended that supervisors take up the issue in next year’s legislative agenda.

“It’s clear that even though this is progress, we are still far behind the rest of the region in terms of the per-pack tax, but probably more importantly, the growing usage of vape, liquid nicotine [and] e-cigarettes that’s not taxed at all at the local level by law in Virginia,” he said.