I read with interest the letter to the editor on April 6 submitted by Sheila Reinhart, a local liquor store manager, “Throw out harmful vape tax bill.”
As a public health professional with three decades working in the prevention of tobacco addiction in youth and other vulnerable folks, I take issue with the tired argument that raising the taxes on tobacco products will increase illicit sales. This is a common yet exaggerated claim to discourage decision-makers from taking meaningful action. No reputable data supports this. Minnesota’s cigarette tax stamp system is very good at limiting illicit sales and the penalties for contraband at a large scale are steep.
The bottom line is the industry knows what we know: higher prices discourage smoking, which compromises their profits.
The World Health Organization states that “significant increases in the taxes for tobacco products is the most cost-effective measure to reduce tobacco use. Higher prices encourage cessation and prevent initiation of tobacco use. ... They also reduce relapse among those who have quit and reduce consumption among continuing users. A 10% price increase on a pack of cigarettes reduces demand for tobacco by 4%. Adolescents are more sensitive to price increases than adults; tax increases have a significant impact on this age group.”
The best benefit of increasing tobacco taxes is the possibility of generating additional funding for health, a practice recommended by WHO. This is being adopted with increasing frequency by many countries.
Recently the Minnesota House Taxes Committee proposed a budget that would dedicate $15 million a year of taxes to prevention and treatment efforts.
This is a win-win. What are we waiting for?