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Hawaii has one of the highest costs of living in the United States and cigarettes are no exception. The prices for a pack of cigarettes in Hawaii are among the highest in the country due to heavy excise taxes imposed by the state.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A pack of cigarettes costs between $9 and $12 in Hawaii, depending on the brand.

Cigarette Tax Rates in Hawaii

State Excise Tax

Hawaii currently has the highest state cigarette excise tax in the United States at $3.20 per pack, which was raised from $3.00 to $3.20 per pack in 2021. This excise tax is levied on top of the wholesale price of cigarettes.

The high cigarette tax rate is part of Hawaii’s efforts to reduce smoking, especially among youth, by making cigarettes more expensive. Studies have shown higher cigarette prices deter smoking initiation among younger people in particular.

Other Taxes/Fees

In addition to the $3.20 per pack state excise tax, there is also a $1.00 per pack county tax that applies for cigarette sales on Oahu. So the total state + county tax is $4.20 per pack for Oahu.

The neighboring islands have slightly lower county taxes: Hawaii County is $0.80 per pack, Maui County is $0.50 per pack, and Kauai County does not currently levy any additional cigarette taxes.

There are also tobacco products licensing fees that wholesalers and retailers selling cigarettes in Hawaii need to pay annually. And a 6.35% general excise tax applies to the wholesale price of a pack along with the $3.20 excise tax.

Tax Rate Comparisons With Other States

State Tax Rate Per Pack
Hawaii $4.20 (Oahu)
New York $4.35
Connecticut $3.90
Washington $3.78
Rhode Island $3.75

As the above comparison shows, Hawaii has the 2nd highest cigarette tax rate in the U.S. after New York according to recent statistics. Hawaii’s tax is $0.15 less per pack than New York.

Average Cost of a Pack of Cigarettes in Hawaii

Buying cigarettes in Hawaii can be an expensive habit with costs varying widely between brands and islands. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the average price for a pack of cigarettes across all brands in Hawaii is $9.53 as of December 2022, which ranks 8th highest in the U.S.

However, prices can range from under $8 per pack for discount brands like Seneca, up to $12 or more for premium brands like Marlboro. Prices also differ notably between islands.

Cost Range by Brand

The cheapest options are typically cigarette brands produced by Native American tribes and sold tax-free on reservations. A pack of Seneca cigarettes costs around $7.00-7.50 on average. Meanwhile, top national brands like Marlboro, Camel, and Newport cost $11-13 per pack on average across most islands.

Premium and specialty cigarette brands can sell for even higher prices approaching $15 per pack in certain stores.

Within these ranges, Oahu tends to have the most expensive cigarette prices due to higher demand and cost of living. Neighbor islands often have slightly cheaper prices, closer to the lower end of each brand’s range.

However, isolated areas like Lanai still top over $13 per pack even for budget brands due to higher shipping costs.

Cost Differences Between Islands

One notable factor impacting cigarette prices in Hawaii is each island’s relative remoteness and shipping accessibility. While not a state tax, added shipping and distribution fees essentially act as a “hidden tax” raising costs well above national averages.

As the most populous island with heavy tourism, Oahu has more direct shipping access and competition between retailers that helps keep cigarette prices slightly lower compared to other islands. Budget brands typically run $7-9 per pack while premium brands usually fall between $11-13.

More remote islands see higher prices across the board.

Island Average Price Per Pack
Oahu $9-12
Maui $10-13
Kauai $10-14
Lanai $12-15

Neighbor islands like Maui, Kauai, and Lanai can pay $1-3 more per pack on average. Budget cigarette brands on Lanai go for well over $12 per pack due to limited selection and high shipping costs to the small, remote island.

Meanwhile, premium cigarettes approach an eye-watering $15 per pack in many Lanai stores.

So while smoking cigarettes in paradise may sound nice, be prepared to pay paradise prices, especially on Hawaii’s neighbor islands. Check local convenience and grocery stores for the best deals on your chosen brand.

What Impacts the Price of Cigarettes in Hawaii

Taxes

Cigarettes are subject to both state and federal taxes in Hawaii, which significantly raises their retail price. Hawaii has one of the highest state cigarette taxes in the U.S. at $3.20 per pack, which was last raised in 2021.

This tax alone comprises about half the total cost of a pack of cigarettes in Hawaii.

On top of the state tax, a federal cigarette tax of $1.01 per pack also applies. So together, taxes account for around 60-70% of the retail price of cigarettes in Hawaii.

Transportation Costs

Hawaii’s geographical isolation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean also drives up cigarette prices due to increased transportation costs. Wholesalers have to ship cigarettes about 2,500 miles from the closest major hub in Los Angeles to Honolulu.

Shipping cargo such long distances isn’t cheap! These hefty transportation fees to get cigarettes to Hawaii inevitably get passed onto consumers in the form of higher retail prices.

Also read: Why Is Shipping To Hawaii So Expensive?

Retail Prices and Profit Margins

In addition to substantial taxes and transportation costs, the retail prices of cigarettes in Hawaii are impacted by wholesalers’ and retailers’ markups. Wholesalers in Hawaii import cigarettes from manufacturers on the mainland U.S. and sell them to local retailers at a markup.

Retailers then also add their own profit margin when selling cigarettes to consumers in stores across Hawaii. On average, wholesalers and retailers combined take 25-30% margins on cigarette sales.

So after accounting for these distribution costs on top of transportation expenses and sizeable tobacco taxes, a pack of cigarettes ends up costing around $9.50 on average across Hawaii as of 2023, making them among the most expensive in America.

Buying Cigarettes at Duty-Free Shops in Hawaii

Honolulu International Airport

The Honolulu International Airport has several duty-free shops that sell tobacco products like cigarettes to travelers. Prices can be much cheaper compared to regular stores in Hawaii.

For example, a carton of Marlboro Reds can cost around $35 at the duty-free shops, while the same carton would be nearly $100 at local convenience stores.

To buy cigarettes at the airport duty-free shops, travelers must provide proof that they are leaving Hawaii. This usually means showing a valid airline boarding pass. There are also limits on the quantities that can be purchased.

For example, each passenger can only buy up to 200 cigarettes duty-free.

Exceptions and Allowances

While duty-free cigarette prices are very attractive, there are some important exceptions and allowances to keep in mind:

  • Travelers returning to Hawaii from a trip cannot buy cigarettes at the airport duty-free shops.
  • Travelers continuing on from Hawaii to another destination can buy duty-free cigarettes.
  • The duty-free allowances only apply to travelers 18 years and older.
  • Cigarettes purchased duty-free must be for personal use and consumption.
  • Duty-free shops can choose to further limit cigarette purchases if supplies are low.

Efforts to Reduce Smoking Rates in Hawaii

Public Health Campaigns

The Hawaii State Department of Health has implemented various public health campaigns to educate residents on the dangers of smoking and encourage smoking cessation.

Some notable campaigns include the “Look to the Future, Don’t Smoke” campaign targeting Native Hawaiian youth and the more recent “No Minor Sale” campaign focused on preventing underage tobacco sales.

These campaigns involve radio and television advertisements as well as community events promoting smoke-free lifestyles. Studies on the effectiveness of Hawaii’s public health campaigns have shown they have contributed to the steady decline in smoking rates across the state over the past decade.

Proposals to Raise the Minimum Age

There have been several proposals in Hawaii’s legislature to raise the minimum legal sales age (MLSA) for tobacco products to 21 or even 25 years old. The idea behind these policies is that raising the MLSA prevents youth from ever starting the habit by restricting legal access.

As of 2016, Hawaii became the first state to raise the tobacco MLSA to 21. Early research indicates this change has already started to reduce smoking uptake among teenagers. Whether further raising the age to 25 would accelerate declines remains up for debate.

Impact on Tourism

Tourism is Hawaii’s largest industry, so the impact of local smoking policies on visitors is a major consideration for lawmakers. On one hand, some argue Hawaii’s smoke-free initiatives give the state an edge for health-conscious travelers.

On the other hand, there are concerns that measures like raising the tobacco MLSA inconvenience tourists who are of legal age elsewhere. So far, Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has found no evidence such policies deter visitors from coming.

In fact, by promoting Hawaii as a family-friendly destination, the state’s anti-smoking efforts may boost future tourism. According to a recent Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority report, the percentage of vacationers bringing children reached 30% in 2022 – an all-time high.

Also read: Weed In Maui: A Comprehensive Guide

Conclusion

As one of the most isolated island chains in the world, Hawaii pays some of the highest cigarette prices due to substantial state taxes, high transportation costs and retail mark-ups. A pack of cigarettes will cost between $9-12 at convenience stores, gas stations and grocery markets across the islands – considerably higher than most other states.

While there are slight variations between brands and islands, Hawaii’s anti-smoking taxation policies intentionally make buying cigarettes an expensive habit to try to improve public health by reducing smoking rates.

Tourists looking to save money can buy limited quantities duty-free, but Hawaii residents pay the steep price tag on each pack they purchase.

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