Raising the price of tobacco is the best way to prevent kids from smoking and to motivate smokers to quit. Research shows that here in Minnesota, price increases were the biggest driver of smoking declines over the past 19 years. But there has been a lull in the action in recent years.
2012 gave us two very different case studies to consider. In June, Illinois implemented a $1-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes. This is something to cheer, and provides a model for Minnesota to follow.
Unfortunately, when a similar proposal was put on the ballot in California, tobacco companies spent $47 million on TV ads to defeat it – a staggering amount even by political campaign standards – and the measure failed by less than 1 percent.
Tobacco companies are well aware of how effective tobacco taxes are at reducing smoking – and this should motivate us to fight even harder. We are no longer a leader in tobacco taxes; in fact, we rank in the bottom half of states nationally.
We can’t afford to let the tobacco industry win this battle. Minnesotans must make their voices heard and demand that our lawmakers take a stronger stance against tobacco. We have fallen behind – and we need to catch up.