Duluth Groups, Businesses Weigh in Proposed Tax Increase on Smoking and Tobacco Products

DULUTH, Minn.– The financial impacts from the pandemic are forcing state governments to find ways to bridge their deficits.

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz unveiled his budget, which would raise taxes in several areas, including tobacco sales.

Walz’s new plan would create a one dollar tax increase on tobacco and vaping products, leading to a mixed reaction here in the Northland.

The proposed one dollar tax-increase is estimated to bring the state an additional $139 million in revenue. Health advocates are pleased to see the planned tax hike, adding that it’s a step in the right direction to limit tobacco usage. Local representatives from the American Lung Association say that the 2013 increased tobacco taxes helped Minnesotan’s not only buy less tobacco products but also helped people kick the habit for good.

“We feel like it’s a hat trick a win-win-win,” said Pat McKone, a Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “Price they’re very sensitive to and the other really good benefit of it is that young people are price sensitive. So that dollar again has multiple positive impacts.

But not everyone is excited about the proposed increase. The owner of The Smoke Shop in Duluth says the tax would not only harm his customers but also his business. The potential increase on smoking and vaping products he says could lead his customers to go across the bridge to Wisconsin. Or not even leaving their homes at all and ordering vape items online, where state taxes don’t apply.

The owner of the smoke shop hopes that it doesn’t pass or at least lower the initial tax hike.

“Wisconsin stores get a huge revenue from people crossing the bridge,” said The Smoke Shop Owner Mike Wazwaz. “I don’t see why that would help the state at all, I think it’s just gonna tax people out. And they’ll go online because there is no taxes online.”

Those from the American Lung Association are advocating that some of the revenue from the new plan be used for the tobacco control program at the Minnesota Department of Health, which is one of the least funded in the country.

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