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Reader's view: Block bills that bolster Big Tobacco

The Minnesota Senate's taxes committee is considering three proposals that, if passed, would serve to be a disaster for Minnesota in respect to preventing the spread of youth tobacco use. The measures would benefit only Big Tobacco.

The committee will be hearing Sen. Warren Limmer's measure to dramatically lower the tax on premium cigars. Cigars are a known gateway product for many young smokers, and this bill would cut prices on large cigars that are particularly attractive to young men and boys.

Sen. David Senjem's bill before the committee would change the way our state taxes e-cigarettes. This bill, backed by R.J. Reynolds, would greatly reduce the tax impact on Big Tobacco's e-cigarette products, which are sold in convenience stores, corner stores and Walgreens, all of which are frequented by youth.

The third bill, also from Sen. Senjem, would completely eliminate the annual increase in Minnesota's cigarette excise tax. Annual adjustments help tobacco taxes keep pace with inflation and prevent the tax impact from declining over time. With all other factors held constant, if the value of the tax is not maintained over time, Minnesota will see an increase in tobacco use by youth.

Please join me in contacting your legislators in St. Paul to voice your opposition to these proposals. We do not need more youth exposed to tobacco products, ultimately increasing addiction and likely their early morbidity and mortality.

Bill Simpson