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Anger Over Brooklyn Center Ordinance Making Cigarillos More Pricy

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (WCCO) – As the price of a pack of cigarettes nears $8, there is a cheaper alternative appealing to more and more smokers.

Cigarillos are mini-cigars, often sold in packs of five. At the Quick Shop in Brooklyn Center, you can even purchase them individually, some priced at under $1.

“Oh yea, it’s very popular,” said store owner Mohamed Elmi. “Everybody buys them, it’s cheap, it’s quick and, you know, everybody buys.”

But a recent survey among Brooklyn Center’s 12th grade boys found that 37 percent report smoking the little cigars.

That survey is partly behind the city council’s recent decision to unanimously pass an ordinance aimed at controlling their growth.

In order to stem rising tobacco use among minors, the city’s newest ordinance will more than double the price of individual cigarillos. Starting June 7, each mini-cigar will cost at least $2 and 10 cents.

Tobacco sellers say the ordinance is unnecessary because they don’t sell to underage smokers.

“It’s only the adults who know what they’re doing, we don’t sell to, you know, minors,” Elmi said. “We sell to, you know, legally those who are able to buy legally in the state of Minnesota.”

At the Winner Gas and Convenience stop on Humboldt Avenue, owner Tony Awad is smoking mad. He says the ordinance will make the city an island of sorts, as customers do their shopping across city lines, to find a cheaper smoke.

And that, Awad believes, is going to end up costing the city badly needed tax revenue.

“If you’re going to give them a cigar for $2. 50  or $3, and a cigar for 99 cents across the street, they’re going to go across the street,” he said.

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