A tax break for the cigar smoker?

In the list of people in Minnesota who are suffering, can anyone top the smoker of premium cigars?

So it’s no wonder that House Taxes Committee chair Greg Davids succeeded in adding language to a tax bill that gives a break to Big Cigar.

Cigars are taxed at 95 percent of the wholesale price, topping out at $3.50. Davids’ provision cuts the maximum to 50 cents, the Rochester Post Bulletin says.

“People are still smoking premium cigars. It’s just that they aren’t getting them from Minnesota retailers,” Davids said.

Cigar retailers testified earlier this session that the taxes are hurting their business, especially with mail-order cigar operations doing a big business here.

Hurting business is the goal of most tobacco taxes, but it also shows the paradox of combining a budget with a health initiative. Opponents say it’ll cost the state $3.4 million if the tax is removed. But eliminating the incentive to buy a cigar (or any other tobacco product) will cost the state, too. Pick one.

“We are worried that bringing (cigars) into a lower price makes them affordable to younger people,” Anne Mason Yoder, of ClearWay Minnesota, told the PB.

The cigar lobby won a similar battle in New York last month when the state’s assembly rejected an attempt to replace a 75 percent tax with a flat 45-cents-per-cigar tax. At the same time, however, that would have been a tax break for premium cigars.