Cigarette Price Increases Don’t Burden Low-Income New Yorkers, Smoking Does

by Jenny Novac on October 4, 2012

The latest research demonstrates that low-income smokers in New York spend 25 % of their revenue on cigarettes. Smokers’ rights advocates claim that this shows high duty on cigarettes is punitive and regressive.

Smoking Cigarettes

Men smoking cigarettes

High tobacco duties are not punitive; they save lives. New York State’s high tobacco tax, which is $4.35 per pack and the highest in the country, with another $1.50 per pack in New York City, is only one part of a comprehensive plan that has effectively lowered smoking rates well below the national rate. In addition to price increases, the plan contains hard-hitting educational media campaigns, smoking prevention initiatives, quit smoking programs and bold public policy.

The significant drop in smoking rates in both New York City and State shows that it is effective. From 2003 to 2010, the adult smoking rate in New York State dropped by 28%, while falling only 11% nationwide. In NYC, the adult smoking rate has significantly decreased from 22% in 2002 to 14% in 2011.

New York State gets two billion dollars yearly from cigarette taxes and other tobacco income, just a fraction of which could finance a stronger program to help any smoker who wants to stop smoking and make sure youth and other non-smokers don’t take up cigarettes.

By improving overall financing for smoking prevention and quitting smoking programs, which have been reduced in half in recent times, it can be provided more targeted support to help low-income smokers give up smoking. Presently, New York “spends about 2 cents of every income dollar from tobacco on smoking prevention. This fiscal year, New York will devote only 16% of the amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.”

It is dishonest that the poorest New Yorkers are spending tobacco taxes and not getting the most efficient help possible to withstand cigarette addiction or quit if they’ve already started. It needs to put into action policies to minimize the tobacco industry’s ability to focus on low-income populations.

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