Bipartisan, Common Sense Legislation Will Close "Little Cigars" Loophole

Jan 28, 2013, 10:30 ET from Raise it for Health

ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Senators Kari Dziedzic (DFL – Minneapolis) and Carla Nelson (R – Rochester) introduced identical bills today to address a problematic loophole and reclassify "little cigars" as what they really are – cigarettes. The legislation ensures little cigars are subject to the same regulations placed on cigarettes and has strong bipartisan support by Senate members. Closing this loophole will help keep cheap and candy-flavored tobacco products out of the hands of kids to uphold the integrity of our state laws.

"Little cigars look, smoke and are marketed just like cigarettes, and they are just as deadly and dangerous," said Senator Dziedzic. "This legislation presents a common sense solution by protecting kids from under-regulated tobacco products and ensuring tax conformity."

Like cigarettes, little cigars are filtered and usually come in packs of 20. However, because there is a tiny bit of tobacco in their paper, they have been incorrectly classified as an "other tobacco product" in law. This loophole unfairly gives favorable tax and regulatory treatment to little cigars. This legislation broadens the statutory definition of cigarettes to include so-called little cigars. This change means little cigars will be:

  • Subject to the same taxes and fees as cigarettes,
  • Required to have Department of Revenue tax stamps to ensure tax compliance and reduce tax evasion, and
  • Subject to the state's minimum price law.

Another problem with little cigars is that they are not subject to the federal ban on flavored cigarettes.

"Little cigars come in peach, grape, strawberry and chocolate flavors and can be purchased for less than $2 a pack. As a former educator, their appeal to our youth is greatly concerning," said State Senator Carla Nelson. "This is smart legislation that will help keep little cigars out of the hands of our kids and ensure compliance with state law. This is a common-sense step to address a problem that should have been fixed years ago."

Tobacco is still a big problem in Minnesota. Sixteen percent of Minnesotans still smoke, and 77,000 kids will use tobacco this year. Each year, 6,800 Minnesota kids become daily smokers and research shows that more than one fourth of Minnesota high school students report that they have tried flavored cigars, cigarillos or "little cigars" at some point in their lives.

"We applaud Senator Dziedzic and Senator Nelson for their leadership on this issue," said David Willoughby, Chief Executive Officer of ClearWay Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce tobacco's harm in Minnesota. "This legislation combined with the Governor's proposed tobacco price increase answers the public's call to put the health of Minnesota's kids first."

This legislation is supported by Raise it for Health, a coalition of over 30 leading health and nonprofit organizations dedicated to reducing tobacco's harm in Minnesota by increasing the price of tobacco.

Raise it for Health partners include: AARP Minnesota, Allina Health, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota, Association for Nonsmokers – MN, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CentraCare Health System, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, ClearWay Minnesota(SM), Courage Center, Four Corners Partnership, HealthEast Care System, HealthPartners, LAAMPP Institute, Local Public Health Association, Mayo Clinic, Medica, Metro-MN Oncology Nursing Society, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Public Health Association, Park Nicollet Health Services, PartnerSHIP 4 Health, School Nurse Organization of Minnesota, Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, Southwest Community Health Improvement Program, and Twin Cities Medical Society.

SOURCE Raise it for Health