Inhale, exhale, and pay up: NY raises cigarette taxes, will it put out smoking?

27 August 2023

By Prapti Upadhayay, Hindustan Times

New York is set to raise cigarette taxes by $1 per pack in an effort to curb smoking rates and promote lung health.

Cigarette taxes are about to burn a bigger hole in your pocket. The Empire State, known for its towering skyline and high living costs, is set to hike up cigarette taxes by a dollar per pack, adding fuel to an already fiery debate on public health versus personal choice.

The state’s Department of Taxation and Finance has announced the impending increase, also extending the tax surge to little cigars. As of this Friday, smokers will have to cough up an additional dollar for every pack of 20 they purchase. But why the uptick? Trevor Summerfield, the director of advocacy at the American Lung Association, pointed out, “We have not raised the tax in New York State in over a decade.” This rise aims to curb smoking rates and promote lung health.

New York already boasts the second-highest cigarette excise tax rate in the nation at $4.35 per pack, trailing only behind Washington, DC’s $5 tax, as per March data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We know that by this tax increase, we are going to decrease the amount of smokers in New York State by thousands, preventing kids from picking up in the first place, and of course, we’re looking out for lung health,” says Summerfield. He also underlined that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer in the state, primarily due to lung cancer.

However, there’s a smoky cloud of contention. Kent Sopris, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, argues that the tax hike will steer consumers toward cheaper markets, while also harming law-abiding retailers. He raises concerns that such policies will drive individuals to unregulated markets.

Sopris passionately states, “Folks are adults. If they want to purchase products like tobacco, they should be free to do so. All my stores offer is a regulated, legal product, that we pay our taxes on.”

Summerfield, on the other hand, believes that the higher price tag on cigarette packs might just be the push smokers need to quit. Drawing from his personal experience, he reveals, “I myself am a former pack-a-day smoker for about ten years. I quit largely due to the cost… It was the best decision I have made in my life.”