The Minnesota Senate is considering legislation that would raise the tax on so-called little cigars to the same rate as cigarettes.
The tobacco products are the same size as cigarettes, but are currently taxed at a lower rate. Anti-smoking activists say the little cigars are targeted to children.
The bill would bring in additional revenue to the state, but Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, told members of the Senate Taxes Committee Thursday that her main goal is to stop children from smoking.
"The number one addiction out there for these kids is tobacco," Rosen said. "If we can get that under control, we have done major strides. Because it starts with tobacco and then it can go to pot and then it can go to other drugs."
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, said she's opposed to using tax policy as a way to modify behavior.
"Is that what tax policy is for, or is tax policy to fund the core functions of government?" she said. "I'm one of those people that believe it's to fund the core function of government and not to drive the behavior of people in a free country."
The Department of Revenue estimates the law change could raise about $6 million over the next two years.
The Minnesota Wholesale Marketers Association and the Cigar Association of America also spoke against the bill, which is still under consideration for inclusion in the Senate tax bill.