Poor smokers in New York state spend 25% of income on cigarettes, study finds
Poor Smokers in New York State Spend 25% of Income on Cigarettes, Study Finds
September 19, 2012
ALBANY — Low-income smokers in New York spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes, according to a new study, which led advocates for smokers’ rights to say it proved high taxes were regressive and ineffective.
The American Cancer Society said that the study, using state data, showed a need to help more poor New Yorkers quit smoking or never start. The study was conducted by the Public Health and Policy Research program of RTI, a nonprofit institute.
In New York, which has the nation’s highest cigarette taxes, a pack of cigarettes can cost $12, though many smokers have turned to buying cheaper cigarettes online or to using roll-your-own devices.
Wealthier smokers — those earning $60,000 or more — spend 2 percent on cigarettes, according to the study.
“The poor pay $600 million in cigarette taxes and get little help in quitting,” Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society said.
Mr. Sciandra said state statistics showed that smokers earning less than $30,000 a year paid 39 percent of state and city taxes on cigarettes. He added that more of the cigarette tax revenue should be used to finance smoking-cessation programs.
Mr. Sciandra said other studies showed that lower-income smokers had less success at quitting. He said low-income smokers trying to quit were hampered by being around many smokers and having less cash to buy smoking-cessation aids.
Audrey Silk of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, an advocacy group, said the study showed that cigarette taxes were punitive and “undeniably regressive.”
“It busts their theory that high taxes equal submission to their coercive measure,” Ms. Silk said. She criticized those in government who opposed smoking and increased related taxes.
Peter Constantakes of the State Health Department argued that tax increases and other programs were helping more people to quit. “New York is promoting a number of antismoking initiatives, including targeted media campaigns, that are designed to reduce the smoking rate among lower-income groups and prevent young people from becoming smokers,” he said.
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