MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Doctors have been searching for years for a solution to help people quit smoking, and now one factor has helped significantly — the cost.

In the first week of Minnesota’s new higher tax on cigarettes, nearly 2,500 Minnesotans visited the Quitplan Services website and 400 people called the hotline for help in quitting.

That’s a 4-fold increase from this time last year.

Cigarettes have never been cheap, but the recent $1.60 per pack tax hike has smokers taking notice.

“I should try and quit cigarettes — that’s kind of what I was thinking,” Jennifer Zullo said.

She’s not the only one. Clinics across the metro have seen a wave of smokers trying to quit since the hike went into effect July 1.

Dr. Natalie Roeser at the Buffalo Clinic sees more patients than ever asking for services and medication to help stop smoking.

“I’m seeing people who say they can’t afford cigarettes anymore,” she said. “They know it’s bad for their health and so they want to quit.”

Cigarettes are now around $7.80 a pack. For an average smoker that’s about $55 a week, $237 a month, and close to $3,000 a year.

But even with smokers seeking treatment to quit smoking, only about half end up filling their prescriptions because insurance companies won’t pay for them.

“Some of these newer prescriptions like Chantix may be very expensive,” Roeser said. “But I also remind them that their insurance isn’t covering the price of their cigarettes, and who knows what they’ll cover if they get lung cancer.”

Doctors say the pricier pack is effective.

“For some people the cost is more important than their health,” Roeser said. “Whatever it takes to make them quit improve their health is beneficial.”


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