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article imageOp-Ed: New York smokers spend 25% of income on cigarettes

By Larry Clifton     Sep 20, 2012 in Health
Albany - It confirms what I’ve seen outside of offices and factories for years. The small huddled groups of employees puffing on cigarettes while telling jokes as one enters such buildings are among the lowest paid on average.
A new survey has been published that shows high government taxes placed on cigarettes are harming low-income individuals and families rather than making them more likely to quit.
The poll involving more than 13,000 people in New York state shows that lower-income smokers spent nearly 25 percent of their household income on cigarettes compared with an average 2 percent spent by wealthier New York smokers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government condemns smoking and acknowledges that the habit is killing many people, but instead discussing banning the dangerous addictive substance, it’s taxing low-income people into poverty.
Politicians know that banning tobacco would be political suicide and that a black market would replace U.S. manufacturers, costing taxpayers, many whom smoke, their jobs. Gone would be the tax windfall that is filling government coffers and parting low-income workers from much of their income. Checkmate.
Of course, when it comes to taxes, the state of New York always can never get enough. For example “the national average spent by lower- income smokers – those with a household income under $25,000 — was 14 percent,” according to the study published Thursday.
New York confiscates a much higher excise tax than other states at $4.35 per pack compared with the national average of $1.46 per pack.
So the question begs; why aren't there four times fewer smokers in New York than, say, any other state?
Excise taxes are effective in changing smokers’ behavior,” Matthew Farrelly, chief scientist and senior director of RTI’s public health policy research program, and study author, said in a statement. “But not all smokers are able to quit, and low-income smokers are disproportionately burdened by these taxes.”
So what do these “experts” want to do? Lower the taxes? No…not a chance. They want to keep piling taxes on taxes and use “some” of the money to change low-income smoker’s behaviors" with subsidized cessation devices and more programs.
I thought they did that when the government sued “big tobacco,” but they couldn't even do that right.
If seeing one or two of those televised anti-smoking videos featuring ghostly souls talking through electronic voice boxes from their wheelchairs as they gasp for air after every few words isn’t enough to educate smokers, why make them poorer to boot?
To be fair, I don't have a dog in this fight - I quit when I was relatively young after 15 years of chimney works, and I happen to believe that anyone can do it. Just wanted to get that out of the way. Figure on coming off grid for about three days until "the crazies" are gone. You can do it.
I just have a problem with government ripping off people while claiming they're helping them out.
“Dedicating some of the revenue from cigarette excise taxes for targeted programs that help low-income smokers quit may help alleviate the regressivity of cigarette excise taxes,” the authors of the survey wrote.
I’ll bet you a pack of Marlboros that Farrelly’s study was subsidized by a government grant – perhaps with money squeezed out of low-income smokers.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Smoking cessation, new york taxes, cigarette taxes, smoking prevention, Tobacco Taxes
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