Should the cigarette tax be raised in Minnesota?

A national anti-smoking group today issued a report saying a $1 increase in the tax per pack on cigarettes could raise almost $100 million toward Minnesota’s budget deficit.

An increase in the current $1.56-per-pack tax would also lead 19,400 Minnesotans to quit smoking, and save 18,200 residents from premature death, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Here’s the full report.

New Yorker Mark Haines on CNBC (ignore the blubber at the beginning from the other anchor) gives the researcher-proponent the admirably curmudgeonly treatment, include the idea that the proposal “contains the seeds of its own destruction.” If you’re trying to get people to stop smoking, doesn’t that decrease the revenue to the state?

Unfortunately, the other co-host can’t keep his ego out of the conversation.

Bob Moffitt of the American Lung Association in Minnesota, says 17.6 percent of Minnesotans over 18 smoke. That means the $1 increase would force only 1 of 204 current smokers to quit smoking.

Wisconsin’s cigarette tax, incidentally, is $2.52 per pack. The group says 20,500 people there would quit smoking with a $1 increase. According to the state of Wisconsin, 19.6 percent of Wisconsinites smoke. So the $1 increase would force 1 in 210 people to quit smoking.

It would appear, then, that for every $1 increase, about 1 out of 208 people quits. If the state(s) were interested in eliminating smoking, why not raise the cigarette tax to $208 per pack?

Other research suggests that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, consumption is reduced by 3 to 5 percent. That would mean — if the napkin calculations are correct — that a $29 per pack price should eliminate the problem.