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Interesting that the lead article in Wednesday's paper covers a potential increase in cigarette cost to hopefully reduce smoking in Minnesota ("$15 cigarettes? Mpls. price could top nation," front page, April 17). Another article covers increasing cannabis sales opportunities in St. Paul ("St. Paul plan would allow cannabis businesses in commercial corridors," April 17). According to the American Lung Association, "Smoke from marijuana combustion has been shown to contain many of the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke."

Kind of contradicts our state's wish to curb smoking, doesn't it? Unless we're counting on increased sales of gummies and other edibles.

Julienne Albrecht, Eden Prairie


On April 16, convenience store owner Anis Ayani's public relations-laced concern about lost profits from tobacco victims rang hollow ("How far is too far in countering smoking?" Opinion Exchange). Rather than oppose Minneapolis' proposed restrictive ordinance on tobacco products, he could go next door and complain to St. Louis Park for not having the same restrictions. If it did have them, he could keep both his addicted customers and his money.

A very close relative of mine died from emphysema. When a doctor told her she had the disease, she stopped smoking cold turkey.

Too late. The last year of her life was living hell. I wonder if purveyors of tobacco products ever consider what the ultimate ending could be for their customers who depend on them.

Jim Bartos, Maple Grove


There they go again! Minneapolis City Council members seems bent on addressing issues that have nothing to do with the governance of their city: raising the price of a pack of cigarettes, mandating higher wages for Uber and Lyft drivers, passing a resolution on Israel and Gaza and more. Has the council forgotten that the city has a surprisingly high crime rate, that it needs to hire hundreds of police officers and that Nicollet Mall is still struggling — and more? Perhaps the council needs to be reminded of an old saying: Mind your knitting.

Richard Engebretson, Wayzata


I actually understand the reasoning by Minneapolis officials for raising cigarettes to $15 a pack given the health impact cigarettes have and that smoking is a vice. However, I don't see how this ordinance might stop people from smoking cigarettes. If someone who lives in Minneapolis wanted to get cheaper cigarettes, they could just go across the river to St. Paul or drive to a border suburb like Robbinsdale or Richfield, and that would be that.

William Cory Labovitch, South St. Paul


$15 cigarettes. Really, Minneapolis City Council? In a state with legalized marijuana, rampant vaping, excessive alcohol consumption, not to mention gambling, doesn't it seem a bit ironic that elected officials are contemplating piling on smokers with what amounts to a patently regressive sin tax? Most of us in Minnesota are pro-choice in most other matters and become apoplectic when our choices are limited or, in this case, penalized.

In a corporate culture that loads our food choices with fats and salts, that promotes addiction and that markets those foods through manipulative techniques that exploit the psychological sciences, why not inflate the costs of junk food to the point it is patently unaffordable, too? My goodness, didn't we hear, just last week, that General Mills was essentially defending the latest anti-science screed, this one suggesting that poor diets and weight gain should not necessarily be discouraged, in part, because shaming obesity is comparatively more damaging? I'm going to guess that Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops sales will benefit, but not their consumers. Perhaps Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops should each cost $15 per box locally. I'm a nonsmoker but, come on, the City Council has no business cherry-picking smoking as a behavioral choice that most people love to hate — targeting it, I would contend, for political purposes.

Dan Haugen, Plymouth


A print-and-spend approach

Fiscal discipline may be needed in federal spending, but not the kind advocated by Tim Penny, David Minge and their Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget ("Taxes increasingly paying for the past, not the future," Opinion Exchange, April 17). They continue to espouse the myth that federal finances operate the same as household budgets and debt must be closely managed or eliminated. In 1982, the national debt climbed to a landmark $1 trillion. Many said it was going to shackle our children to economic misery. Sound familiar? The federal debt is now 34 times larger. We are a generation removed and supposed to be suffering because of that immense 40-year-old debt. Why aren't we?

As long as any government can insert (i.e., spend) its own fiat currency into the economy and redeem it (i.e., tax) with that same currency, it can never go broke. We think that the government collects tax revenue and then spends it. It's the opposite. The government first creates and inserts a currency into the economy which all of us then circulate and pay back in taxes. It can do this as much as needed.

Myth #2: Government is funded by taxes. No; taxes are the moderating mechanism to restrain the economy from runaway inflation. What of the interest it must pay on all that debt? That is just another way of inserting money into the economy. We use that T-bill income to save for retirement, fund college, or just live better.

Of course, there is no free lunch. The spending must be judicious and no larger than what the economy can absorb to prevent runaway demand-pull inflation. And no, the recent inflation burst was not from the trillions in stimulus payments. It was a short-term cost-push inflation from worldwide COVID supply-chain shortages and oil-price increases.

It's time to change how we think about federal debt. Attempts to pay it down with tax increases and spending cuts will be damaging to the economy and recessionary. There are so many historical examples of how deficit spending has been of great economic benefit and austerity budgets have caused misery and harm. Let's learn from those.

Dennis Fazio, Minneapolis


I enjoyed Penny and Minge's opinion piece about current taxes being used to pay for interest on the national debt. However, the title of their commentary — "Taxes increasingly paying for the past, not the future" — got me to thinking. I believe it's not just the interest that is costing us dearly our for past decisions. I wonder how much of our current taxes are going to rebuild our national infrastructure that we should actually have been maintaining all along. What portion of our current expenditures are for an overburdened and underfunded criminal justice system that might not be so expensive had we invested more money into early childhood education and mental health care for our children over the past 30 years? I shudder to think of how much we are and will be spending to mitigate the devastation being caused by climate change when we could have worked toward preventing that damage for more than a decade.

The anti-tax forces that demanded the huge tax cuts mentioned in the article likely prevented us from taking critical steps that could have saved us money in the long term. Seems to me it's not just that growing interest expense part of the past that we should be worrying about — it's also why in the world didn't we realize that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is still true.

Al Cleland, Mounds View