CATLETTSBURG Area cigarette sales are on fire amid panic about the coronavirus.
As of Tuesday, discount cigarette shacks were reduced to window and curbside service only, per the statements made by Gov. Andy Beshear at a Monday presser.
With roughly a quarter of Kentuckians and West Virginians listed as smokers by the Centers for Disease Control, Quick Tobacco #3 is seeing huge business, according to manager Allen Black. Situated right at the bridge connecting the county seat to Kenova in West Virginia, drive-through windows were busy Tuesday afternoon as tobacco users lined up to purchase cigarettes, dip and other products.
“Our biggest day is normally Friday, because it’s pay day,” Black said. “Right now, we’re at eight or nine Fridays in a row. With first of the month coming up, we’re going to be slammed.”
And it’s not just the volume of customers — it’s the amount they’re buying, too, according to Black. Typically customers buy one to two cartons of smokes or rolls of snuff, Black said. Now they’re buying four to five cartons, he said.
“They’re buying them up like toilet paper,” he said, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in the parking lot. “People are going to be wiping their butts with Camels before too long.”
Normally the store serves folks in the immediate area, with out-of-staters coming primarily from the South Point area and the Huntington area, Black said. Now, Black said he’s starting to see customers come from St. Albans, West Virginia, and Gallipolis, Ohio — both roughly 50-mile treks.
“It’s the tax difference, because usually folks from Ohio will go to West Virginia because they’re saving about 5 bucks on the carton,” Black said. “Now that they’re buying more, it’s worth the gas money to come down here for it.”
Over in Cannonsburg, Tom’s Discount Tobacco owner Tony Galindo took a break to poke his head out of the drive-through to report he has also had increased sales. Galindo said he’s seeing a big spike in discount purchases, as some smokers are worried about the supply running out. Last week, Phillip Morris USA announced it would temporarily snub out production at it’s Richmond, Virginia, plant due to two employees testing positive for COVID-19. Monday, Phillip Morris International closed an Italian plant to prevent the spread.
“The big worry for the industry is while business is good right now, it’s the after-effects,” Galindo said. “If they’ve stopped production, there could be a supply shortage down the road.”
Phillip Morris has announced there should be enough supply on the distributor level and in the market place to keep shelves stocked for two months. The Richmond plant is projected fire back up in two weeks, per a media release.
For the time being, it’s still OK to smoke them if you’ve got them.
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