Premium cigar bill: Another tax break for Big Tobacco

Maintaining high tobacco prices keeps Minnesotans from smoking, according to Raise it for Health

Mar 26, 2015, 15:49 ET from Raise it for Health

ST. PAUL, Minn., March 26, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of Raise it for Health, a coalition of Minnesota's leading health and nonprofit organizations, responded today to discussion of House File (HF) 1544 in the House Taxes Committee. HF 1544, sponsored by Representative Jim Nash (R-Waconia), would reduce the price of premium cigars by as much as 85 percent.  

"Cigars have higher levels of carcinogens than cigarettes, and research shows that higher tobacco prices help people quit, prevent youth smoking and save lives," Dr. Russell Luepker, a cardiologist at the University of Minnesota told committee members. "Why would we undermine a policy that reduces smoking and give tax breaks on a product that kills people?"

Premium cigars are currently taxed at 95 percent of wholesale price, up to a maximum of $3.50. HF 1544 would reduce the maximum tax from $3.50 to $.50, slashing cigar prices considerably.

Research shows that high tobacco prices encourage adults to quit and keep kids from starting. After the historic 2013 tobacco tax increase, Minnesota's adult smoking rate hit a new low – 14.4 percent. And research from the Minnesota Department of Health found 20,000 fewer Minnesota students smoking in 2014 than just three years prior. In addition to the health benefits, the tobacco tax is projected to save the state billions in long-term health care costs.

"The tobacco tax has already reduced smoking in Minnesota by motivating smokers to quit and keeping kids from picking up the habit," Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs at ClearWay Minnesota, and co-chair of the Raise it for Health coalition, told Committee members. "This legislation would walk back that success and represents bad health policy and bad tax policy."

"If this bill goes through, some cigars will cost as little as $2.50," said Latrisha Vetaw, Program Officer at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in North Minneapolis. "Pushing down the price of tobacco hurts low-income people, many minorities and kids, because it pushes tobacco into their price range. That's not worth a few extra dollars in the tobacco industry's pocket."

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, Association of Minnesota Counties, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CentraCare Health System, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, ClearWay MinnesotaSM, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, 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 Association of Community Health Centers, Minnesota Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Hospital Association, 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