Minneapolis smokers to pay some of the highest cigarette prices in US with a $15 per-pack minimum

Published 5:22 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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MINNEAPOLIS  — Smokers in Minneapolis will pay some of the highest cigarette prices in the country after the City Council voted unanimously Thursday to impose a minimum retail price of $15 per pack to promote public health.

The ordinance not only sets a floor price. It prevents smokers and retailers from getting around it by prohibiting price discounts and coupons, which several tobacco companies circulate online to lure customers and reinforce brand loyalty. The minimum price also applies to four-packs of cigars. Distribution of free samples is prohibited.

Consumer prices are expected to run even higher after taxes are figured in. While retailers will get to keep the extra money paid by smokers, the higher prices are expected to snuff out at least some of their sales.

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E-cigarettes, which have grown in popularity, were left out because their prices vary too widely.

The minimum price will be effective as soon as Mayor Jacob Frey signs the measure, which he’s expected to do within the next few days.

Evalyn Carbrey, a senior public health specialist with the city, said at a committee hearing last week that staff research indicates that Minneapolis’ minimum will be the highest in the country. Staff determined that cigarettes typically had been selling in Minneapolis for $11 to $13.50 a pack. The change puts Minneapolis ahead of New York City, which set its minimum at $13 in 2018.

“I’m excited that this council is taking this public health crisis seriously because that’s what it is,” said the author of the ordinance, Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw.

Council President Andrea Jenkins said the price of cigarettes was one reason why she quit smoking eight years ago, and that she hopes the new minimum will encourage more people to stop or never start.

“If you travel around the country, New York City — you can’t buy your pack of cigarettes for under $18. Chicago, $17. Some places, Los Angeles, I think they’re up to 20 bucks,” Jenkins said.

Penalties will range from a $500 fine for a first violation to license suspensions and revocations for repeat offenders.

“If it helps even one person stop using tobacco, one person use less tobacco, or one person stopped from starting tobacco use, that’s worth it to me,” Council Member Linea Palmisano said. “I know it’s easy for me to sit up here and say that, as a nonsmoker, but it’s the truth. The only way we’re going to break our dependence on tobacco is if we make some really hard changes.”