What others think: Tax hike could help smokers in Minnesota quit smokingHold on to your wallets, smokers. On the heels of President Obama’s expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, by taxing cigarettes an additional 62 cents a pack, the Minnesota Legislature is looking to add another dollar per pack to the cost of lighting up.
By: Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
Hold on to your wallets, smokers. On the heels of President Obama’s expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, by taxing cigarettes an additional 62 cents a pack, the Minnesota Legislature is looking to add another dollar per pack to the cost of lighting up.
The Act for a Healthy Future, introduced last month, is scheduled for its first committee hearing Wednesday in St. Paul. Its buck-a-pack increase on the state’s existing $1.48-a-pack tobacco tax is projected to generate at least $90 million a year.
The revenue would be used to encourage smokers to quit, to prevent young people from lighting up in the first place and to fund existing and new cancer-and-heart disease-preventing initiatives.
Additionally, about two-thirds of the buck-a-pack funding would help preserve low-income Minnesotans’ access to health coverage through MinnesotaCare.
Smokers could pay for all of this by forking over about $7 for a pack of cigarettes. That’s still less than the $8.80 every pack sold creates in health care costs, according to the American Cancer Society.
Smokers also could foil the whole works. They could refuse to pay exorbitant taxes on their products. A growing number of Minnesotans already are giving up the habit. The state’s Freedom to Breathe Act — which banned smoking in public spaces, including bars — played a big part in the reduction. The Act for a Healthy Future can lower the number even more.
Faced with rapidly rising tobacco taxes, smokers may feel like the enemy. But encouraging them to quit improves not only their health but the health of children and others around them who no longer have to breathe their toxic air.
And if they refuse to quit — well, that can improve Minnesotans’ health, too, just in different ways.