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Mpls. Tobacco Shops Bracing For Incoming Price Hike On Smokes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis residents who use tobacco will have to pay more to light up come New Year's Day.

The Minneapolis City Council voted to increase the price of flavored tobacco and cigars come Jan. 1.

That hike comes with an automatic price increase to Minnesota's cigarette tax.

The price increase has some vendors crying foul and some smokers rethinking their habit.

"Cigars are a huge product for the tobacco stores," said Mike Wazwaz, of Royal Tobacco in Uptown.

He says he expects business to slow down when the price of flavored cigars goes up in the new year.

"We sell these for $1.99," Wazwaz said. "They are going to be, I believe, $5.20 plus tax in a few days."

Wazwaz says cigar sells make up 25 percent of his business. He fears this price hike will send people to other municipalities to buy flavored cigars and tobacco.

"I think this is the biggest hike in history," he said. "It's going from about $4 to about $10 for the 5 pack...and I think it's going to open up a door for the black market," Wazwaz said.

The Minneapolis City Council passed the price increase in an effort to keep flavored tobacco products from reaching young people.

St. Paul adopted a similar ordinance that it will vote on soon.

Tobacco store owners say it will just push customers to other cities, where there is no price hike.

And flavored cigars are not the only smokes you'll pay more for.

Frank Stanback says he's use to enjoy smoking a pack every two days, but needs to kick the habit soon.

"The price is going up, it's time to quit," he said. "It's like you are putting cigarettes on the grocery list basically, I mean $11, that's a pack of meat, food to eat, food to put in the refrigerator."

Related: MN Offering Free Anti-Smoking Treatment To Some

The average price for cigarettes in Minnesota is a little over $8 a pack.

Come New Year's Day, it will increase more than 50 cents.

The increase will put Minnesota 8th in the country for the price of smokes.

"It's more than enough to make me quit," Stanback said. "It's like were paying for our own death."

The Minnesota Service Station Association is one of several groups saying Minnesota businesses area losing out on sales because people are stocking up in border states where the tax is lower.

Minnesota's tax on cigarettes will increase to $3.54 per pack. North Dakota's rate is 44 cents per pack, while Wisconsin smokers pay $2.52 per pack.

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