To the editor:
We were disappointed to read the opinions expressed in the July 6 editorial. We would like to provide your readers with accurate information based on fact (references readily available).
The following points address several myths presented by Mr. Peterson:
Myth: The new tobacco tax will help pay for the Vikings Stadium. Fact: The revenue from the tobacco tax will go into the general fund. Some of the money from a one-time tax on cigarette inventory in stores may go to the stadium.
Myth: Raising the tobacco tax is unfair to smokers. Fact: The cost of treating tobacco-related disease far exceeds the amount of tobacco tax collected by smokers. Every man, woman and child in Minnesota pays $554 in excess health care costs due to smoking whether they smoke or not.
Myth: Smokers won't quit even if the price increases. Fact: Research shows that a $1.60 per pack tax increase will help more than 36,600 current Minnesota smokers quit. In our state, we are fortunate that all smokers have access to free cessation services through QUITPLAN. In addition, low-income smokers suffer disproportionately from the health effects of smoking, and are 70 percent more responsive to price increases.
Myth: Tobacco tax revenue isn't reliable. Fact: Every state that has significantly raised its tobacco tax has seen an increase in state revenue and health benefits for residents.
The new tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products is estimated to generate approximately $400 million over the next two years and will save our state more than $1.65 billion in long-term health care costs.
Myth: Raising the tobacco tax will force people over the border. Fact: In most places, the price difference isn't substantial enough to cause people to cross the border to buy cigarettes. Some may cross occasionally, but the number of individuals who do this is statistically very low. Most smokers will continue to buy their cigarettes in Minnesota.
Research has consistently shown that raising the price of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting. Saving Minnesota lives and our kids from a lifetime of addiction is "fair" and a great idea in our book (of facts).
Southwest Community Health Improvement Program (C.H.I.P) members