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New Cigarette Tax Could Means More Revenue, Less Smokers

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Outside downtown office buildings, many smokers didn't want to talk about the possibility of a tax that will push a lot of cigarette packs into the $8 range.

Dan Jones says the tax may be the push he needs

"It's a tax on something that you don't need… I'm ok with it actually," Jones said. "Who knows, maybe it will finally give me the motivation I need to stop doing it."

Nicole Peterson says she would cut back.

"I won't quit over it, but I'll definitely smoke less," Peterson said.

And that is exactly what Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehllnger likes to hear.

"I think the increase of the tobacco tax by $1.60 per pack is one of the biggest public health benefits from this legislative session," Ehllnger said.

Commissioner Ehllnger says data from other states show tax hikes make a difference

"Among adults, if you raise it 10 percent - about two percent will quit smoking," he said. "That's a huge impact."

The state says it has built the expected drop in smokers into their revenue projections. The current tobacco tax pulls in $423 million, and the state is predicting the higher tax would pull in $618 million a year.

Dan Jones is hoping it's a tax he won't be paying.

"Eight dollars a pack versus six, I'd probably quit - which is probably a good thing for me," Jones said.

Right now almost 20 percent of Minnesotans are smokers, which is approximately 625,000 people. The state estimates the tax will result in more than 36,000 of those smokers quitting

The state also estimates the new tax would keep up to 50,000 Minnesota kids from ever starting to smoke.

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