St. Paul, MN (03/08/17) – Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of 50 organizations working to prevent youth smoking in our state, opposed three bills that were debated by the Senate Taxes Committee today. These proposals would lower prices on several tobacco products, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes and cigars.
“These tax cuts mean the tobacco industry will sell more products and increase profits,” said LaTrisha Vetaw, Health Policy and Advocacy Manager for NorthPoint Health and Wellness in Minneapolis, who testified against one of the bills. “When you lower tobacco taxes, it hurts kids, because it pushes tobacco products down into their price range, making it easier for them to start.”
Each bill debated today would decrease the price on tobacco products. The measures were held over for possible inclusion later in Session.
S.F. 849, authored by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), would reduce the tax cap on so-called premium cigars from $3.50 to $.50. Cigars are currently taxed the same as other tobacco products, at 95 percent of the wholesale price. This change would slash cigar prices considerably.
S.F. 1051, authored by Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), would eliminate the annual inflator on Minnesota's cigarette excise tax and freeze it at its current rate.
S.F. 1052, also authored by Sen. Senjem, would reduce the tax on tobacco industry e-cigarettes by taxing per milliliter of nicotine. E-cigarettes are currently taxed as all other tobacco products, at 95 percent of the wholesale price.
Research and experience shows that high tobacco prices encourage adults to quit and help keep kids from a lifetime of addiction and disease from smoking. Since the tobacco tax increase of 2013, Minnesota’s smoking rates have hit historic lows – 14 percent of adults and 11 percent of kids. Big Tobacco lobbies for lower prices to keep people addicted to its products and recruit replacement smokers. Tobacco use costs Minnesota more than $3 billion each year in excess health care costs and almost 95 percent of adult addicted smokers started before age 21.
There is also a growing body of evidence that shows youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become cigarette smokers.
Traielle Godfrey, a youth advocate from St. Paul, told lawmakers about the prevalence of e-cigarette use among his peers. “Most of smokers start when they’re kids,” he said, “And they would take it back if they could. Cheap e-cigarettes are just another trick to get them started.”
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. The coalition supports policies that reduce youth smoking, including keeping tobacco prices high, raising the tobacco sale age to 21, limiting access to candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco and funding future tobacco prevention 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.