Study: New York's high cigarette tax hurts poor smokers the most

Summary:New York State's hefty excise tax doesn't deter low-income smokers, as they spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes.

A new study from RTI International might have policy makers rethinking the use of sin taxes to control behaviors like eating junk food or smoking cigarettes.

After an investigation into the effectiveness of New York’s hefty cigarette tax, the study found that the state’s low-income smokers spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes.

According to the American Cancer Society, statistics also show that those who earn less than $30,000 a year paid 39 percent of the state and city taxes on cigarettes.

Wealthier smokers who earn $60,000 or more, on the other hand, spend only 2 percent of their income on the habit.

For many, the study’s findings reveal a need to reconsider the state’s cigarette taxes, which are currently the highest of any state in the country at $4.35 per pack.

“The poor pay $600 million in cigarette taxes and get little help quitting,” Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society told the Associated Press, adding that low-income smokers also have less money to invest in tools that will help them quit.

Instead of downsizing the tax, however, the researchers suggest using some of the state’s revenue to implement programs that will help people kick the habit.

“Special efforts are needed to reduce smoking among those with low incomes,” said Matthew Farrelly, the study’s lead author and the senior director of RTI’s Public Health Policy Research program. “It seems only fair that states with high cigarette taxes should adequately fund cessation interventions for low-income smokers who shoulder a disproportionate share of cigarette taxes.”

Image: Valentin Ottone/Flickr

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Topics: Innovation


Contributing Editor Sarah Korones is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for Psychology Today and Boston's Weekly Dig. She holds a degree from Tufts University. Follow her on Twitter.

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