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Brady Olson, Moorhead, Published July 05 2013

Letter: Tobacco tax hurts Minn. businesses

With great fanfare, Gov. Mark Dayton is celebrating his tax increases on wealthy Minnesotans and on smokers. Unfortunately, his support of massive tobacco taxes runs contrary to what he said previously – that he doesn’t like this tax as it tends to be regressive. But now he has been promised that increasing the tax on a pack of cigarettes may also force people to quit smoking.

But let’s be honest. The only quitting people in this part of the state are going to be doing is quitting going to Minnesota retailers to get their cigarettes. With the Dayton tax plan, a pack of cigarettes in North Dakota will be nearly $3.30 a pack cheaper than they are on this side of the border. And while people are in North Dakota to buy their cigarettes, they might just happen to notice that the gas and sales taxes in North Dakota are lower also.

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, cigarette sales account for about a third of their members’ in-store sales. When you remove the incentive for Minnesotans to shop locally, you are harming other Minnesotans who chose to own and operate retail operations like convenience and grocery stores. And I think we can all agree that finding new ways to harm Minnesota retailers shouldn’t be the goal of any state budget.

While the goal to get people to quit smoking is admirable, this budget will also force a lot of people to quit retailing in northwest Minnesota.

Olson is president, Brady’s Service Center