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Raise New York Tax On Cigarettes

Editorial: Raise New York Tax On Cigarettes

March 17, 2008 –

If a 100 percent increase in one tax can reduce smoking and help cut the state’s budget deficit – and it can – there’s no good reason for state legislators not to pass it.

Right now, the state tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.50. On top of that, the City of New York imposes another $1.50, for a total there of $3. A $1.50 increase would put the state back in the forefront of those willing to curb smoking by taxing it more heavily. The last time New York raised the tax was 2002. Since then, many other states have raised theirs.

The main reason for the increase is to deter people from buying an expensive and lethal product. Proponents of the tax increase estimate that it will keep more than 291,000 kids from starting this habit – and help a lot of adult smokers to quit, as they say they want to do. In fact, 63 percent of smokers polled last month say they favor the higher tax.

The increase would raise an estimated US$500 million a year, even factoring in the inevitable tax-evasion efforts. Supporters want $50 million of that to go toward tobacco cessation; the rest can help trim the state’s $4.5 billion-plus deficit.

New York used to do a poor job of curbing tobacco. But now advocates rate its cessation programs among the best in the nation. In 2007, the American Lung Association gave the state an “A” on overall tobacco control. But the same report gave New York a “C” for levying too small a tax.

With $50 million from the increased tax, on top of the $86 million the state now spends annually on cessation, New York can become an even stronger leader in avoiding smoking deaths. That’s a distinction well worth achieving.

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