Border states see a nicotine hit from Minnesota smokers

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Retailers at gas stations and convenience stores in communities adjacent to Minnesota are seeing a predictable bump in sales as smokers cross a river or a border to save money.

On Monday, the state increased its cigarette tax by $1.60 a pack in an effort to both raise revenue and discourage people from lighting up.

According to the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids, Minnesota's butt tax is the 6th highest in the nation, while nearby North Dakota's is 46th. The Grand Forks Herald reports business got a bump at Valley Dairy’s Big Cigs in Grand Forks as smokers from Minnesota communities arrived to buy cheaper packs. Big Cigs manager Rachel Lawrence said numerous cars with Minnesota license plates roledl into her store’s parking lot.

The Fargo Forum has the dollars and cents. The cheapest pack of cigarettes at Brady’s Service Center in Moorhead jumped to $6.50 on Monday. The same pack of Pall Malls at Fargo’s Gateway Service Center-Cenex was $3.79.

KSFY in Sioux Falls reported that South Dakota retailers expect to benefit from Minnesota smokers who make a run for the border.

In Brandon, S.D., Jason Groeneweg, assistant manager of the Coffee Cup, told the station he hopes smokers will make regular trips to South Dakota. "It's a great benefit for us because when they come in, they start to make a routine out of it."

WKBT Lac Crosse, Wis. reports that when Wisconsin increased its cigarette tax a few years ago, retailers lost customers to Minnesota. Now they hope to get them back.

The Winona Daily News quotes a retailer in nearby Centerville. Wis. who said her store ordered more inventory, aware that many border-area residents work in one state and live in the other and can stop at her store rather than one on the other side of the interstate bridge.

The paper also reported that a Winona e-cigarette retailer welcomed the hike in the hopes it will convince smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, which aren’t taxed like old school smokes and cost one-third of what someone smoking an $8 pack would pay.

Mark Roussin opened his Vapor Vibes store a month ago. “We’ve already seen it today,” he said about an increase in business.

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