Politics and Government

Minneapolis City Council weighs new tobacco rules, including $15 minimum price for cigarettes

A man smoking a cigarette.
The Minneapolis City Council is considering a higher minimum price for cigarettes and other products sold in the city -- which could be the highest in the nation.
Eva Hambach | AFP via Getty Images 2019

The Minneapolis City Council is considering adding new rules and restrictions on sales of tobacco products, including a minimum price for cigarettes and other products that could be the highest in the nation.

The changes under consideration include a minimum price of $15 per pack of cigarettes or package of four or more cigars, or for certain-size packages of snuff or snus.

The changes to the city’s existing tobacco products ordinance also would bar price discounts or coupons for tobacco products, and — starting Dec. 1 — ban free samples of tobacco products, and ban smoking of “samples” inside any retail establishment licensed to sell tobacco products.

The changes would also increase the penalties for businesses that violate the ordinance — including moving from a $200 fine to a $500 fine for a first violation.

The proposal was forwarded by the council’s Business, Housing and Zoning Committee on Tuesday without recommendation. The full council is set to consider the measure next week.

Evalyn Carbrey with the city’s health department told council members at Tuesday’s public hearing that, based on the department’s research, a minimum price of $15 per pack of cigarettes would appear to be the highest in the nation.

Carbrey clarified that the minimum price is not a tax.

“So the extra income will go back to the store, which we believe is helpful because it can soften the blow to retailers if they might potentially be losing some sales with a minimum price floor,” Carbrey said. “Any extra revenue goes back to the retailer.”

Backers of the changes say the higher minimum price and ban on discounts will be an incentive for current smokers to quit, and for youth to not start smoking. In 2021, the St. Paul City Council passed tobacco restrictions that set a minimum $10 price on a pack of cigarettes.

But the latest proposal in Minneapolis — specifically the ban on sampling — also drew speakers in opposition at Tuesday’s public hearing. Some raised concerns that barring indoor smoking at cigar bars or hookah bars would harm important community gathering places.

And the owner of two stores that sell tobacco in Minneapolis raised concerns that a higher minimum tobacco price in the city would send customers to retailers in other cities.

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