St. Paul, MN (01/19/17) – Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of 50 organizations working to prevent youth smoking in our state, opposed H.F. 123 today, as it was debated in the House Taxes Committee. This bill, authored by Rep. Nash (R-Waconia), would lower the tax on so-called premium cigars by as much as 85 percent.
“Cigars have higher levels of carcinogens than cigarettes,” Dr. Russell Luepker, a cardiologist at the University of Minnesota, told committee members. “Research shows that higher tobacco prices help people quit, prevent youth smoking and save lives. Why would we undermine a policy that reduces smoking and instead give tax breaks on a product that kills people?”
“Premium” cigars are currently taxed like other non-cigarette tobacco products, at 95 percent of wholesale price, up to a maximum of $3.50. H.F. 123 would reduce the tax cap 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 percent. And research from the Minnesota Department of Health found 20,000 fewer Minnesota students smoking the year following the tax increase. In addition to the health benefits, the tobacco tax is projected to save the state $1.65 billion in long-term health care costs.
“Raising the price of tobacco reduced smoking to record lows in Minnesota by motivating smokers to quit and keeping kids from picking up the habit,” said Janelle Waldock, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “This legislation would walk back that success and is nothing more than another tax break for Big Tobacco.”
Meghan McFarling, a junior at Mounds View High School testified that many of her teenaged friends use tobacco products, including cigars. “Kids think cigars are harmless, compared to cigarettes. They don’t realize what addiction is, and that the more they do it, the harder and harder it is to stop. But you can help protect our teens and future generations to come from these dangerous and deadly products.”
ABOUT MINNESOTANS FOR A SMOKE-FREE GENERATION
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of Minnesota organizations that share a common goal of saving Minnesota youth from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. In addition to raising the tobacco sale age to 21, the coalition supports keeping tobacco prices high, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco and funding future tobacco control programs.
Partners include: A Healthier Southwest, African American Leadership Forum, Allina Health, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota, Apple Tree Dental, Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota, Becker County Energize, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CentraCare Health, Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, ClearWay MinnesotaSM, Comunidades Latinos Unidas En Servicio – CLUES, Essentia Health, Four Corners Partnership, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, HealthEast, HealthPartners, Hennepin County Medical Center, Hope Dental Clinic, Indigenous Peoples Task Force, ISAIAH, LAAMPP Institute, Lake Region Healthcare, Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, Local Public Health Association of Minnesota, March of Dimes, Mayo Clinic, Medica, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, Minnesota Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Hospital Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Oral Health Coalition, Minnesota Public Health Association, Model Cities of St. Paul, Inc., NAMI Minnesota, North Memorial Health Care, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, PartnerSHIP 4 Health, Perham Health, Rainbow Health Initiative, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, Tobacco Free Alliance, Twin Cities Medical Society and WellShare International.