State lawmakers eyeing tax cut for cigars

Minnesota lawmakers are considering a significant tax reduction for premium cigars.

Legislation heard Thursday in the House tax committee would reduce the current rate of $3.50 per cigar to just 50 cents. The committee did not take a vote, but will consider the proposal for a larger tax bill this session.

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, said his bill would put Minnesota cigar shops on more equal footing with online retailers and with shops in neighboring states, where the taxes are much lower.

“I know many of us here in the Legislature do like an occasional cigar, and it’s really difficult to go to a local purveyor because the tax is just crushing,” Nash said.

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Cigar shop owners testified in support of the bill.

Anti-smoking activists spoke against it.

Dr. Russell Luepker, a cardiologist at the University of Minnesota, told lawmakers that high tobacco prices help to keep Minnesotans healthy.

“Increasing taxes on tobacco reduces use among kids,” Luepker said. “It helps people quit of all ages, and it saves lives. Why would we want to undermine such an effort by giving a tax break to premium cigars?”