Some convenience store operators are crying foul over the latest increase in taxes on cigarettes in the province.

A five cent hike per cigarette went into effect at midnight Tuesday. That’s an additional $1.25 for a pack of smokes and an increase of $10 for a carton of cigarettes, which holds eight packs of 25 cigarettes each.

“The prices of cigarettes are already on the highest level in Canada,” said Masood Chaudhry, who manages the Canadian Tire gas bar on Victoria Road in Sydney.

He said the tax hike is only contributing to the increased demand for contraband cigarettes that are smuggled into the province.

The new NDP government increased the cigarette tax after the previous Tory government attempted to do the same but was defeated on a budget bill in early May.

It’s a move that’s expected to raise $21 million in this fiscal year.

Chaudhry said fewer customers buying cigarettes at his store will result in poor sales, which is particularly important because cigarettes make up the bulk of a convenience store’s revenue.

“When they find the $1.25 increase is there, they will find a way definitely. They will not go to a store. They’ll say, ‘OK, switch over to the illegal (cigarettes).’

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