LA CRESCENT/LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Starting in July, Minnesotans will see the cigarette tax jump by $1.60 per pack.

That's enough to have some Minnesota businesses thinking they may lose some profits to the other side of the river.

After July, Minnesotans who smoke a pack a day will have to fork over another $48 a month in cigarette tax.

While hopping the border to Wisconsin may save people some money, there is one more destination that may give them an even bigger bang for their buck -- that is if they're willing to go the distance.

Mani Edpuganti has to keep his shelves well-stocked with cigarettes for the weekend.

"Especially on Saturday and Sundays, we see a lot of people coming in buying them in cartons," said Edpuganti, the owner of Pump 4 Less gas station in La Crescent.

He said lately customers have been coming in to stock up on their smokes before the tax goes up in July.

"The way the economy is going, it's a really bad change," said Edpuganti.
In about a week, Minnesotan's will pay 31 cents more in cigarette tax than just across the river in Wisconsin.

The change has the owner of the Mileage Gas Station in La Crosse, Ricky Birk, optimistic.

"It probably could help us actually," said Birk.

Birk said when Wisconsin increased its cigarette tax a few years ago, he lost many of his customers to Minnesota.

Now, he's hoping to get them back.

"Cigarettes are so expensive," said Birk. "People can hardly afford a pack out there."

But Edpuganti isn't so much concerned about losing his customers to Wisconsin.

"I see people going down to Iowa more than stopping here," said Edpuganti.

If smokers take an hour drive to the Iowa border, they'll pay less than half of what Minnesota's cigarette tax will be.

And if that's the case, all that business owners in Minnesota and Wisconsin can do is cross their fingers and hope they don't lose their customers.

"Everybody wants low prices," said Birk. "Nobody wants to spend more money. You've got to do what you've got to do. We don't have any other option to run the business."

Both owners said the last time their states raised cigarette taxes, they saw a dip in business for a few months before things started picking up again.

After July, Minnesota's cigarette tax will be the sixth highest in the nation.