Students React to Possible Sunday Alcohol Sales, New Tobacco Tax

The end of March may have stirred the possible uplift of North Carolina’s alcohol distribution by easing up on sales made on Sundays.

Sunday closing laws, or “blue laws”, have a long history. Originating around the 18th century word choice-“blue”, referring to “rigidly moral”, set up the prohibition of regular work on Sunday. These “blue laws” are associated with Bible-oriented communities and remain in current North Carolina statues, influencing public activities. Ultimately, blue laws reflect the restriction of activities or sales of goods on Sunday to accommodate the Christian Sabbath.

Legislation filed in the North Carolina General Assembly during the fourth week of March would allow liquor sales on Sundays. North Carolina’s current law states that local ABC stores must close each Sunday. Alcohol sales in WNC, where some counties remain dry, have increased within the past couple of years. Local communities have authority to allow bars to sell liquor on Sundays.

However, the recession has sustained the bill’s outlook. Senator Tom Apodaca concludes that there is no need to open liquor stores on Sundays. However, Apodaca does inquire whether some of North Carolina’s blue laws need to be updated.

WCU student Lauren Harris, who is a junior and Professional Writing major, prefers not to consume alcohol on a regular basis, so she said the uplifted ban, “doesn’t apply much to me…if the state can use the extra money to help the economy, why not?”

Even though beer and wine is currently sold after noon at bars, restaurants and grocery stores on Sunday, the complete uplift of the ban would generate additional revenue because it would open the door for ABC stores to sell alcohol. Governor Bev Perdue proposed balancing next year’s state budget partly on a higher alcoholic beverage tax. By allowing sales on Sundays, liquor industry analysts’ project that North Carolina would get an extra $5.5 million in tax revenue by allowing sales on Sundays.

Also last week, federal tobacco taxes took a rise on Wednesday, April 1 in hopes of raising funds to deal with special programs. Adding to the pain of smokers who have already seen major cigarette companies raise prices, the price per-pack tax climbed from 39 cents to $1.01.

The extra revenue from the taxes is aimed at financing health insurance for children, a health initiative set forth by President Barack Obama just after taking office. All other tobacco products will also see a raise in tax. For example, the chewing tobacco tax has gone up from 19.5 cents per pound to 50 cents. The probable total raised over the 4 ½ year-long health insurance raise is close to $33 billion.

Many students on campus have mixed emotions on this issue.

Ashley MacIntyre, a sophomore and Geology Major, feels that “the cigarette tax is absurd. Why not just make them illegal instead of unreasonable to buy them? Next thing you’ll see is a tax on each pound gained after a person hits the obesity standard!”

Working students like Elizabeth Waugh, a junior and English Education and Theatre major, witnesses first hand how the tobacco tax affects consumers.

Waugh states that although, “I do not smoke, but work at an Ingles in Asheville, I see first hand the effect on people’s pockets.”

With the latest increase of the tobacco tax, tobacco tax has risen six times since 1951. Perhaps public health advocates’ intentions will influence young people not to start, or others to quit.

Either way, student Lauren Harris feels that “I am a non-smoker, …[an] increase on cigarette tax won’t affect me. If the state is trying to promote a smoke-free environment, I don’t think jacking up the prices will be very effective. People who like to smoke are going to smoke; Raising tax prices won’t change that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.