ST. PAUL – Last legislative session, one of the most controversial items passed by the Republican-led legislature was a series of tax breaks on tobacco products, costing the public millions every year. Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL – Golden Valley) has introduced a bill for the coming session to reverse these tax giveaways while increasing efforts to help Minnesotans quit smoking.
“Republicans decided last session that corporate tax giveaways for big tobacco were more important than investing in our families and ensuring out state budget remains stable,” Rep. Freiberg said. “This session, it’s time to undo those shortsighted corporate handouts, and in doing so, improve the health of Minnesotans, many of whom continue to lose family members to smoking.”
The legislation would reinstate the indexing of the cigarette tax to inflation, which was removed in the 2017 Republican tax bill. Rep. Freiberg’s bill would also restore the tax on premium cigars to the level they were prior to the 2017 cut.
Higher tobacco prices have been shown to reduce smoking. One study showed that a majority of those who quit smoking or attempted to in the year following the 2013 cigarette tax hike did so because of the added cost.
“In Minnesota, we’ve made major strides in reducing smoking, especially among our youth. However, as e-cigarettes gain popularity among high school students across our state, we shouldn’t trade our kids’ future health for corporate tax cuts,” Rep. Freiberg said. “Keeping tobacco prices high will protect kids, save lives and save money. Further, dedicating a portion of tobacco taxes to tobacco prevention and smoking cessation represents Minnesota’s values and commitment to health and wellbeing.”
Under the bill, any new revenue from these taxes would be directed toward smoking prevention and cessation programs. Increased revenue after the first year would go to the state’s general fund.