The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 25, 2013

Tax hike hasn't dissuaded smokers

(Continued)

"They'll probably just grumble more at the cashier," he said.

Enggren, too, is skeptical about the heightened tax changing the long-term behavior of smokers. He saw a big drop in sales in the first week of July but attributes that to people stocking up on pre-tax-hike smokes.

He's also seen more people trying cheaper brands of cigarettes and temporarily switching from one premium brand to another based on the $1 discount on the packaging. Others seem to be buying smaller quantities than usual, perhaps trying to cut down on the volume of their habit.

Enggren, who said he quit smoking about two years ago, doesn't expect the cut-back approach will last, saying it's just too easy to back-slide if someone continues to smoke occasionally.

But for people who were thinking hard about taking the cold-turkey plunge anyway, the tax hike might shove them off the cliff.

"When a guy's on the edge, that's enough to get them to say 'I quit, I'm not going to do it anymore,'" he said.

A quick look at his books and Enggren says there doesn't appear to have been a lot of cliff-dwellers among his customers.

"I'd say volume is the same or a little higher," Enggren said, although he cautioned that the sales numbers are distorted because gross sales include the higher tax. "I think it's going to take a little while to find out. ..."

Attempts to get comment from owners or managers at Mankato's tobacco shops were unsuccessful, although one customer said the tax change was altering his behavior.

"It's making me quit," he said, even as he paid for his purchase at Smoker's Choice. "I've got a (nicotine) patch on right now."

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