New Tobacco Tax Hike Could be Incentive for Smokers to Quit

By KBJR News 1

July 1, 2013 Updated Jul 1, 2013 at 5:51 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Minnesota's slimmed down budget for the next two years includes a hefty tax on cigarettes that will help decrease the state's deficit.

The tax kicked in on July 1 and could have a major impact on smokers' wallets, but possibly on their health as well.

The idea was to help out with the state's multi-million dollars deficit but it could end up helping smokers kick the habit.

"It's just become way too expensive to afford. Although it's a nice luxury to have. But eight dollars per pack is a little excessive," said Shawn Frost, a Duluth resident who is trying to quit smoking.

July 1st is d-day for smokers...the day the new cigarette tax takes effect.

The extra cost per pack on smokes in Minnesota is $2.83 raising the average price of a pack to more than $7.50.

"As soon as they announced it, I basically put the goal on myself that, you know, July first is quit day,"" said Frost.

The American Lung Association says 17 percent of the population in Minnesota smokes. They welcome the tax as a quit incentive.

"We hear the reluctant "I really hate that the tax went up so much. Maybe this is when I make my quit attempt." So for us, it's a win win and we're excited about the potential and we're excited about the health impact it's going to have," said Pat McKone, director of the Tobacco Prevention Program at the American Lung Association in Duluth.

Minnesota offers free cessation services to anyone who lives or works in the state.

"At any given time half of the people that use tobacco are trying to quit. Here's another one of the things we can do to support those quit attempts," said McKone.

Essentia Health also offers free, individualized services, for people trying to quit smoking.

"We say you want to quit, let's review some of the reasons why you want quit, not why I want you quit, and then we come up with the best possible plan," said Aaron Korte, a Tobacco Cessation Counselor.

Tobacco Cessation Counselor Aaron Korte says they've already received many phone calls from people who are using the tax hike as a motivator to quit.

"It's another push, another pull that brings them in and they basically say I can't pay this 7 dollars plus fee cost each pack of cigarettes," said Korte.

Pat McKone says tobacco treatment programs do work, people just need to be committed to them.

"Counseling, linked with the nicotine replacement, and pharmalogical aid, double your chance of success," said McKone.

Tobacco treatments generally see a 30 to 40 percent success rate.

As part of the tax hike, retailers and distributors will have to pay a one-time floor stock tax for every pack of cigarettes they have on hand.

That tax is expected to go toward funding for the new Vikings stadium in the Twin Cities.

Written and posted to the web by Raeanna Marnati
rmarnati@kbjr.com