Sharon convenience store closing after cigarette tax increase

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SHARON, Pa. (WYTV/AP) – Pennsylvania’s cigarette tax is going up by a buck per pack, giving smokers one more reason to quit or cross the border to buy. Korner News is closing its downtown Sharon location as a result of the tax’s impact on sales.

Starting Monday, the tax will be $2.60, up from $1.60. The tax increase is the largest-single increase on the state’s smokers since Pennsylvania first imposed a cigarette excise tax in 1935.

For Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature, it was a step toward addressing a long-term deficit.

“It really hurts because you’re trying to make a buck and they keep on penalizing you,” said Toby Abrutz, owner of Korner News. “Every time you try to get ahead, the state puts another tax on something.”

Toby and Jaque Abrutz own the convenience store and say the increased tax is more than they can take.

Cigarettes were their main source of business and with this tax, they just can’t keep up.

Their daughter, Lisa, is a realtor. She says this latest cigarette tax was the nail in the coffin.

“There’s just not enough business. I mean, everyone is going to start going to Ohio now to buy their cigarettes,” she said. “It’s been tough for a long time and it just really pushed us over the edge.”

Pack-a-day smoker Brent Johnson of suburban Harrisburg says he won’t change his habit, but feels it isn’t right for policymakers to target smokers when they have other options to balance the budget.

Dawn Alonzo of Carlisle has smoked for 20 years. She’s trying to quit and says the higher tax is one more reason now to keep trying.

Meanwhile, the Abrutz family is trying to figure out how to make ends meet.

“My daughter’s putting in an order today and…we decided not to order cigarettes because we are going to wait and see what this does with the business all week,” Jaque said.

Lisa says selling the store breaks her heart.

“My dad’s worked hard all his life to make a buck and it’s really tough.”

While the Korner News flagship location is closing, the Abrutz’s have another location in uptown Sharon that will remain open.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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