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Fewer New Yorkers Are Smoking – Higher Taxes Could Be Among Key Reasons

By RICK KARLIN, Capitol bureau, – Thursday, June 4, 2009

ALBANY — Fewer and fewer people are smoking in New York, and health officials peg part much of the decrease to higher taxes.

The Department of Health on Thursday announced that just under 17 percent of New Yorkers were smokers in 2008, which represented a 12 percent or nearly 310,000-person drop from the year before.

They note that the decrease in smoking came as taxes on cigarettes are hitting record levels. Last June, the state raised taxes from $1.25 to $2.75 per pack, making it the nation’s highest state tax at the time.

Additionally, federal taxes rose 61 cents to $1 a pack in April.

“For the first time, New York’s adult smoking rate has dropped below 17 percent, which is well below the national average,” said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. “The data reported today show that New York’s tobacco control efforts are having an impact and that keeping the price of cigarettes high is a proven intervention that has helped 310,000 New Yorkers become ex-smokers, who can now lead healthier, longer lives.”

“This is what we predicted,” added Russell Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco-Free New York.

Health Department spokeswoman Diane Mathis said the state’s data comes from an annual survey of “risk factors,” that states do in coordination with federal officials.

New Yorkers now pay $3.75 (HK$ 29.25) in state and federal taxes for a pack of cigarettes. In New York City, where there is an additional $1.50 tax, they pay $5.25 (HK$41).

Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or

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