Pricier packs of cigarettes possible in Minneapolis

Proposed tobacco tax hike

Proposed tobacco tax hike

The price of a pack of cigarettes in Minneapolis could soon cost some around twice as much.

For decades, the city of Minneapolis has been taking steps to curb smoking — in 2004, it became one of the first cities in the state to ban smoking in most public places.

Now, there are significant proposed changes to its tobacco ordinance addressing prices and penalties for businesses that break city policy.

The most notable would be setting a minimum price for a pack of cigarettes to at least $15 — cigars, loose tobacco, snuff and snus would also have that minimum price.

The amendments were brought forward by Minneapolis City Council member LaTrisha Vetaw and would also include ending discounts and coupons and putting an end to in-store sampling — something Vetaw calls a ‘loophole’ leading to people still smoking inside some tobacco shops.

“We’re gonna have healthier citizens,” Vetaw told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“For many years, I’ve also talked to people who have [said] ‘With this change, I’ll smoke less’ or are [probably going to] quit,” Vetaw said of the possible price increase.

While Vetaw and the city health department say this is rooted in the well-being of everyone in Minneapolis, those who smoke and sell tobacco are far from appreciative.

“We’ve lost a lot of business here due to that,” Eddy Merlin, who works at Smoker Friendly in Minneapolis, said about the increasing prices.

At the check-out counter, the tobacco shop had fliers for people to learn how to reach out to council members to urge them not to vote in favor of the changes.

Merlin is a smoker himself.

“I’m spending up to almost 300-400 hours a month for packs of cigarettes, you know, and it’s just too much,” he said, adding that, “People should be able to make their own choices.”

But the state says price increases have helped changed habits before. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention data shows about 19% of Minnesotans smoked in 2011, that dropped to 13% in 2022.

The city also tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that a $15 minimum price for a pack of cigarettes would be one of the most expensive in the country.

A full city council vote could happen as early as next week.