Lung Association's Bob Moffitt looks forward to July, when cig taxes go up $1.60 per pack [INTERVIEW]

Categories: Taxes
BobMoffitt.jpg
Moffitt, a former smoker himself, has arguably become Minnesota's leading anti-cigarette activist.
After a $1.60-per-pack cigarette tax increase goes into effect on July 1, Bob Moffitt expects many Minnesota smokers to do as he did after college and quit.

Moffitt, director of media relations for the American Lung Association in Minnesota, says he kicked his cigarette habit cold turkey many years ago, and he supports the move Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature made this session to make Minnesota's cigarette taxes the highest in the five-state area.

FROM JANUARY: Smoking is slowly becoming illegal in Minnesota

"We expect our phones to be ringing off the hook after July 1," Moffitt said. "We expect a lot of calls from people who want to quit."

According to WCCO, as of July 1, a pack of cigs in Minnesota will cost 31 cents more than in Wisconsin and $2.39 more than in North Dakota. Some think that disparity could create a thriving black market for cigarettes in Minnesota, but Moffitt argues "too much is made" of that concern.

"A lot of anti-tax groups and pro-tobacco groups very aggressively push the smuggling and black market idea and in states that have [raised cig taxes], generally speaking it has never turned out to be a big problem," Moffitt said. "There is always going to be some degree of somebody breaking the law somewhere."

Moffitt pointed out that despite North Dakota having cheaper cigarettes than Minnesota for years, most Land of 10,000 Lakes smokers don't go to the trouble of traveling to NoDak for smokes or ordering them online. He doesn't expect a dramatic change now that Minnesota's taxes are going up again.

Asked what he expects to see in the months and years after the July 1 tax hike goes into effect, Moffitt said that "unless Minnesota is different from every other state in the union that has done this, we're going to see a drop in overall smoking. But we're particularly going to see a drop in youth smoking."

"For every 10 percent increase in the real price of a pack of cigarettes, you're going to see a 3 to 4 percent overall drop in smoking rates, but a 7 percent drop in youth smoking," he continued. "That's the one thats really important -- that's what we've got to bring down here."

So why not just ban cigarettes altogether?

"Well, we've never called for a total ban or prohibition on smoking," Moffitt replied. "As a nation we tried prohibition once and we know how that worked out for us. [But] considering that 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease cases and lung cancer cases are directly tied to smoking, if there's anything we can do to bring down the smoking rate, we're going to save an awful lot of lives. If we run the numbers, a $1.60-per-pack tax increase is going to save about 47,000 Minnesota kids from getting addicted."

We also asked Moffitt about the Lung Association's views on alcohol taxes. After all, many of the same public health arguments used to bolster the case for higher cig taxes can be used in support of raising beer taxes, can't they?

(To read the rest of the interview, click to page two.)


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16 comments
Kevin Green
Kevin Green

For the State to attempt to profit off of a persons addiction to further victimize those poor souls that face addiction is shameful. And to try to justify it by stating they can quit is the height of hypocrisy. It really shows the low class short sighted mindset of these self important elected officials. Who do they think they are fooling besides themselves.

Nathaniel Hodne
Nathaniel Hodne

It's bull shit, another way for people to feel that they have control over others.

Edward Bertsch
Edward Bertsch

This tax won't be in effect at the tribal casinos however, right?

mingtran
mingtran topcommenter

Fat Bob Moffit: what are your cholesterol and blood pressure levels? Worry about yourself, fatty.

justplainbobisahack
justplainbobisahack

Bob, c'mon, you know you would support all out prohibition too if it was on the table.  Tell me Bob, what will the ALA pour money and political dollars into next when tobacco is regulated into oblivion?  What will be next on the ban list, I really, truly want to know your opinion.

qwer
qwer

What a dick.

Jane Peterson
Jane Peterson

if a kid wants to smoke they WILL ALWAYS find a way, so no matter what you do you arent going to change that!

Alex Browne
Alex Browne

Bob looks like he will be waiting by the park in his windowless van to give each and every kid a hug.

Noah Hanson
Noah Hanson

Regressive sin taxes, must've been passed by conservative Republicans right? Obviously it wasn't Dayton and "tax the rich" Democrats who would do such a thing! Lying assholes.

Noel Barrick
Noel Barrick

They will just start chewing tobacco... most already have.

Thomas Zocher
Thomas Zocher

Hi Bob, go fuck yourself! Taxing doesn't benefit anybody. It's a smokescreen, you are a single-minded dickhead, and...your mustache is too big for your face, but it does match your glasses...also too big.

Jim McFarlane
Jim McFarlane

That's really gonna cut into Uptown's ramen budget.

Dan Gustafson
Dan Gustafson

50,000 kids will want to smoke more than ever now just to rebel against statist control freak douches.

Joseph Bartel
Joseph Bartel

"Well, we've never called for a total ban or prohibition on smoking," Moffitt replied. "As a nation we tried prohibition once and we know how that worked out for us." So much cognitive dissonance here.

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