ND Proposes Higher Tobacco Tax

Current Tax Would More Than Triple

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North Dakota lawmakers want to more than triple the current tobacco tax. It would be the first hike in 22 years.

While Minnesota has one of the highest tobacco taxes in the country, North Dakota is currently one of the lowest at 44 cents per pack. Since Minnesota raised its tobacco tax to $2.90, smokers have resorted to driving across the river to buy tobacco products in neighboring states.

This proposed bill has both smokers and retailers wondering if that trend will continue. Connor Schmidt is a smoker that lives in Moorhead. But he buys his cigarettes in bulk in North Dakota.

“If I’m over in Fargo I’ll definitely buy a carton,” says Schmidt.

Moorhead tobacco retailers have been facing a harsh reality.

“We lost close to 70 or 80 percent of our sales when they passed that tax,” says Brady Olson, owner of Brady’s, a convenient store in Moorhead.

If this new bill passes, North Dakota cigarette packs will go from 44 cents to $1.54. It is still much cheaper than Minnesota but Brady is hoping it could bring some of his lost business back.

“It’s maybe going to help us on our end but I think it will be a very small amount, maybe 10-15 percent,” Brady says.

But one North Dakota retailer doesn’t think that will happen.

“I don’t think them raising the taxes that much are going to really affect, you know, the business increase that we’ve seen coming over the river,” says David Anderson, Assistant Manager of Don’s Car Wash.

The bill’s sponsor says one of the reasons for the hike is to give adults the incentive to quit and some smokers say it might work.

“Well, I don’t know, maybe I’d have to try quitting again,” says Christine Bushaw of Fargo.

But for people like Schmidt, all it means is spending a little bit more.

“You’re not going to sway a smoker by upping those taxes up,” Schmidt says.

Part of the new revenue would go towards local public health and safety programs for counties and cities. The bill is still going through the committee process in Bismarck.

Categories: Moorhead