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CIGARETTE RUSH: Smokers stockpile packs ahead of tax hike

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Flickr/Creative Commons/Denis Defreyne Flickr/Creative Commons/Denis Defreyne

Smokers have 21 days before a new tax hike hits tobacco products on July 1, and Minnesota business-owners and customers are preparing by picking up packs in bulk.

Cigarettes will soon cost $2.83 per pack in taxes alone, and that has some smokers loading up on cartons as others try to quit before the tax kicks in.

Marc Long told FOX 9 News he is tired of being targeted for his smoking habit and wonders why the state can't go after something else.

"Liquor, parking -- why does it got to be the cigarettes?" he asked.

Long is already looking for ways to cut his costs and circumvent the system.

"I'm going across the state line to Wisconsin," Long admitted.

Yet, while some smokers would rather go buy cartons elsewhere and bring them back over the border, bringing more than one out-of-state carton a month is illegal under Minnesota state law.

At Smokedale Tobacco in Minneapolis, Ziad Abdul Hussein told FOX 9 News some of his customers are trying to save in another way -- by stockpiling packs.

"He bought 27 cartons -- almost $600," Hussein said. "Swiped his card and bought 'em."

Hussein said many customers are buying in bulk right now, and that's good for business -- for now.

"He's like, 'You know what? Can you please order more? I am going to buy the next 27,'" Hussein recalled.

The $1.60 tax increase was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton in May, citing statistics that show smoking costs the state nearly $3 billion in health care costs each year.

"It recoups some of those costs, but also, our research shows that by raising the prices like this, it will deter young people from starting to smoke and it will cause some people to quit smoking," said Myron Frans, the governor's revenue commissioner.

The tax revenue could add more than $430 million to the state budget over the next couple of years, but many smokers -- including Long -- say the state shouldn't count on their business for long.

"I'm not going to smoke no more," he said.

Some smokers are also talking about buying tobacco at casinos or stores on the state's Indian reservations because tribal groups pay only half the state cigarette tax and could keep prices lower.

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