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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
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Published June 13, 2024

Local smoke shops prepare for $15 cigarettes

City Council’s $15 per pack cigarette law takes effect on July 8.
Image by Alexandra DeYoe
Some tobacco shops are waiting till the ordinance takes effect to change their prices to $15.

With less than a month until the city requires cigarette packs to be sold at a $15 minimum, many local tobacco shops are already seeing the price hike take effect. 

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed the cigarette price ordinance on April 25 which will take effect July 8. According to MPR, this is likely the highest price in the country. 

The ordinance will also affect chewing tobacco, snuff and cigars but not tobacco or nicotine vapes. Some council members, Katie Cashman (Ward 7) and Aurin Chowdhury (Ward 10) expressed interest in proposing similar regulations for vape products. 

Council member LaTrisha Vetaw (Ward 4) said she strived to author the bill because of her background in public health and watching close family members grapple with addiction.

“I educated myself on the dangers of smoking,” Vetaw said. “It was kind of a personal mission to just, like, educate people in no way that I’d ever think I would have a job where I could do it.”

Vetaw said the City Council landed on the $15 per pack price tag after collecting data and conversing with tobacco store owners. On average, a pack of cigarettes costs around $13.50 per pack before the ordinance, Vetaw added. 

Marianna Peters, manager of The Hideaway, a smoke shop in Dinkytown, said since their prices have not changed yet, they have seen more customers looking to buy cigarettes than ever before. 

Peters said she has been hearing a lot of customers planning to quit or cut down on smoking once the ordinance takes place. 

“A lot of people are saying they’re going to try to quit, but they’re doubtful that they will,” Peters said. “What will happen is people are saying ‘I quit,’ it’s going to increase the (sale of) vapes.” 

Vetaw said she heard a flow of positive responses from community members about the ordinance. According to Vetaw, this ordinance has pushed some to quit smoking. 

Teren Olvera, an employee at Campus Market and Tobacco in Dinkytown, said he heard many customers were coming to the store because their prices had also not raised to $15 yet. Olvera added many customers are buying around 10 packs of cigarettes to stock up. 

“We don’t allow much more sale past that just because if we allow everyone to buy all the cigarettes they could, we’d be gone right away,” Olvera said. “We’ve definitely had a lot more sales knowing that (the ordinance) is gonna come soon.” 

Vetaw said the ordinance could discourage smoke shops from selling cigarettes in the future, however, she added that the tobacco industry tends to create newer and more affordable options quicker than the Council can enact policies. 

“While we’re working on raising this price, they’re busy creating something different and more affordable,” Vetaw said. “That’s why there’s always the opportunity for policy change.”

Olvera said some customers plan to turn to alternatives like nicotine pouches, which will raise those products’ popularity, while others said they would drive to a different state to get more affordable cigarettes. 

Peters said she expects people to start switching to other products, like flavored nicotine vapes, once the ordinance takes effect. Peters added Hideaway does not fear future restrictions, but a ban on flavor cartridges would be tough for their sales. 

Peters said the tobacco industry is usually ahead with new products and innovations, making most restrictions or bans on products too late to harm businesses. Peters said if there is a flavor pod ban, people will still vape nicotine but with no flavor. 

“We do have a vape that’s got two separate pods, so it has a nicotine pod and then a flavor pod,” Peters said. “So we kind of have that to hopefully counteract that.”

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  • John Dringus
    Jun 12, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    Everyone in the comment section is being a major biznatch, besides being completely uncreative squares and stiffs. Grow your own tobacco and make with it what you’d like, you can smoke it, chew it or even snort it. We should be limiting the profits of huge tobacco and instead encouraging horticultural endeavors and possibly even an underground network of safe, affordable small-scale tobacco.

  • Gina
    Jun 11, 2024 at 12:35 pm

    This is only a Minneapolis policy, so it will only impact people without the transportation necessary to leave the city and buy cigarettes elsewhere. It will function essentially as a poverty tax. Why are we devoting resources to harming poor addicts and the future business of Minneapolis smoke shops when we could be helping people connect to resources for quitting instead?

  • Ken DeYoe
    Jun 10, 2024 at 2:22 pm

    Government overreach in action. Period. Minneapolis City Council has become a perilous group dividing the city and making it worse. Politicians need not be anyone’s parents.

  • Thomas
    Jun 10, 2024 at 10:31 am

    “It was kind of a personal mission to just, like, educate people in no way that I’d ever think I would have a job where I could do it.”

    These are clearly the words of an extremely educated, intelligent person.

  • Steve Hauser
    Jun 10, 2024 at 9:28 am

    I wonder if the Mpls councilpersons will be coming forth with new laws governing soda and/or fast foods. And why not mandatory exercise? Clearly, the council knows more about what is/isn’t healthy than the do their constituents.