Taxes could rise for smokes

If the bill is passed, the cigarette tax will jump from 48 cents to $1.47 by August.

Advertising senior Phil Gran said he smokes at least a pack of cigarettes a week.

But if the state approves a 99-cent tax increase on cigarettes, Gran said, he would be “all for it.”

“Anything that makes me smoke less is fine with me,” he said.

Last month, the bill for a cigarette tax increase was proposed in the Senate to deter people from smoking, said Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, I-Rochester.

If the bill is passed, the cigarette tax will jump from 48 cents to $1.47 by August, she said.

The new bill is also expected to reduce the number of young-adult smokers by 18 percent, Kiscaden said.

The tax would make Minnesota ninth in the nation for the highest cigarette tax, as opposed to 37th, where the state stands now, Kiscaden said.

Several University students who smoke said the tax increase will have a huge impact on their buying habits, but that does not bother them. Many said they would hope to quit or lessen their intake if the cigarette tax were to increase.

“I’ll probably try to cut down or be really poor Ö poorer than I am now,” said first-year student Alyse Hays, who smokes approximately eight packs of cigarettes a week. Hays said she spends approximately $112 on cigarettes each month.

“I’ll be more tempted to quit now than before,” she said.

Kiscaden said 29 percent of Minnesota high school students smoke, which is higher than the national average of 23 percent.

“The younger you start smoking, the more likely it is you will be a heavy smoker,” she said.

Hays and several other student smokers fit this statistic.

Hays began smoking at age 14 when she became friends with other smokers, she said.

But even with a higher tax, student smokers said, quitting is extremely difficult when a person is addicted.

“If the addiction is there, the tax would not matter,” said psychology sophomore Kendra Hess, who has been smoking for more than two years.

Hess said she has tried to quit at least seven times with methods such as the nicotine patch and nicotine gum.

Others, such as first-year student Meg Sausen, said school is too stressful to quit right now.

Already, 67 percent of surveyed Minnesotans said they would support a tax increase on cigarettes, Kiscaden said.

Kiscaden also said every 10-percent increase to the price of cigarettes reduces the number of young adults who smoke by 6 percent.

With the bill, 38,500 adults would be prevented from starting, would stop or diminish smoking in their lifetime, she said.

Mack Field, an employee at Royal Cigars and Tobacco in Dinkytown, said he already knows the increased tax will have a negative effect on cigarette sales across the state.

“The whole market in general is concerned. It’s going to happen all over,” he said.

Currently, approximately 70 percent of the store’s customers are University students, he said.

In Minnesota, more than 5,000 people die annually as a result of tobacco use, and one of three will die prematurely from smoking-related causes, Kiscaden said.

The cigarette tax will be used to reduce the cost of health insurance for small businesses that are struggling with high premiums, Kiscaden said.