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ALTOONA, Pa. -- In response to the April 1, increase in federal excise taxes (FET) on tobacco products, Sheetz Inc.'s convenience stores in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio guarantee the lowest allowed price on cigarettes in the state.
Explaining these states set a minimum level on cigarette prices, and selling the products under those levels is illegal, Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing for Sheetz Inc., said, "I can promise you that Sheetz customers … won't pay a penny more than the state minimum."
The more than 350-unit convenience chain also spoke out against tobacco companies' price increases ahead of the April 1, FET increase.
"The cigarette manufacturers think they're pulling an April Fools trick on their customers," said Sheetz. "Consumers were expecting an increase April 1, but the tobacco companies actually raised the prices as early as March 11, which forced us to raise our retail prices. Now, they're just pocketing that extra money. … So now they're taking in an extra seven bucks per carton. In my book, that's more than an April Fool's trick. That's just wrong."
Sheetz stores posted notices at the sales counter explaining this, and the chain held off passing on the price increases as long as possible, because it wanted to protect consumers, the company stated.
"It was unnecessary for the cigarette manufacturers to raise prices early, and I'm calling them out on it," said Sheetz. "At least we're able to guarantee our customers the lowest price on cigarettes … That will help."
At the time of the 71-cent price increase, an Altria spokesman said in published report the list price increases on cigarettes were primarily intended to cover the costs of a federal excise tax increase that goes into effect April 1.
Later, an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. representative said in published reports its 44- and 41-cent increases on certain brands, with a net impact of being "aligned with our competition."
At the same time, Lorillard raised prices for several of its brands by 71 cents per pack.
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-- Marketing the Minimum