A Rochester lawmaker is helping lead the charge at the Capitol to raise taxes on cigarettes and go after so-called “little cigars.”
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, introduced two tobacco-related bills on Monday. One would boost taxes on cigarettes by $1.29 a pack so they are taxed at the same rate as they are in Wisconsin. The money raised by the tax hike would be used to reduce the statewide business property tax. The other bill seeks to get rid of a tax loophole that would require little cigars to be taxed as cigarettes. These products, which come in candy and fruit flavors, are taxed at a much lower rate than cigarettes because they have some tobacco in their wrapping paper. As a result, a pack of little cigars costs $1.50 versus more than $5.00 for a pack of cigarettes.
“Our bill simply says this is a cigarette and the research shows that if someone does not pick up smoking before the age of 20, they are much less likely to be addicted for life,” she said.
Both bills have bipartisan support. Nelson introduced them last year but they failed to pass the GOP-led Legislature. Supporters are optimistic that these bills have a chance of passing this year noting that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's budget calls for a 94-cent increase on a pack of cigarette tax.