The state will raise its cigarette tax by $1 a pack on Friday, making New York one of the most expensive places in the nation to purchase cigarettes.

Effective Sept. 1, the cigarette tax increases to $5.35 a pack from $4.35, making it the highest cigarette tax in the nation. The increase was part of New York’s $229 billion budget plan approved this spring.

It comes at a time when the state has seen a steep decline over the last several decades in tobacco usage. But smoking continues at higher rates among low-income people and people of color. 

According to the CDC, smoking-related illnesses are the leading cause of preventable death throughout the United States. Supporters of the tax hike say increasing the tax is about trying to make cigarettes less accessible.

The World Health Organization reports a 10% increase in tobacco prices results in a decrease of consumption by about 4% in high-income countries.

The American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network projects the higher tax will save more than 15,000 lives in New York state and prevent more than 14,000 people under the age of 18 from smoking.

One county health department educator said preventing youth from smoking is one of the most important parts of the hike.

“That’s making it harder for kids to be able to afford buying these products, so it's going to make it less likely that they’ll experiment with tobacco products," said Meghan Hallihan, a public health educator for Tobacco-Free CNY. "If kids don’t start smoking during youth, then hopefully they won’t grow into adults who smoke.”

Research from the state Department of Health show 20% of high school-aged youth use tobacco products. The state spends just under $10 billion a year on smoking-related health care costs.

The state in recent years has sought to limit youth smoking. The minimum age to purchase tobacco products was increased to 21 from 18 in 2019, while e-cigarette regulations have also grown.

Convenience store organizations oppose the tax increase, arguing it would further expand the illicit marketplace. 


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