I read the Feb. 27 letter to the editor, “Tobacco tax increase,” about the tobacco tax increase within Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget. The letter made a very inaccurate claim that increasing the price of tobacco does not encourage smokers to quit. Extensive research shows quite the opposite. Not only does increasing the price of these products lead to a decline in tobacco use, it’s proven to be one of the most effective ways to help people quit and to keep young people from starting. In fact, the 94-cent increase Dayton is proposing is estimated to prompt nearly 23,000 Minnesota smokers to quit and prevent nearly 30,000 kids from becoming addicted adults.
Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in our state and in our nation. In Minnesota, tobacco is responsible for 5,000 deaths each year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By increasing the price of tobacco products, Dayton is standing up for Minnesota kids and for smokers to make it easier to say no to these deadly products. What’s more, he’s doing it in a way that will not only cut health care costs in the future — Minnesota currently spends $3 billion on tobacco-related health care costs each year — it will generate more revenue for the state. An increase of 94 cents will generate an estimated $116 million for the state each year.
Tobacco taxes save lives. But if it’s the money that matters to you, the research is clear there, too. A tobacco price increase like this one will save money and increase state revenue. The governor’s budget is the right move for all Minnesotans — that means students, too.