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Editorial: Burning at both ends

The American Lung Association last week released its annual report on the state of tobacco control in the United States, and the group’s findings illuminate what was recently a vitriolic issue here in New York. The problem is, the victory recently claimed by anti-smoking advocates seems to have turned hollow.

In the summer of 2010, a cigarette tax hike was passed that made New York smokes the most expensive in the nation, taxed at $4.35 per pack (denizens of New York City pay nearly $6 in taxes per pack).

Reader poll

Has New York's higher cigarette tax been an overall success or a flop?

  • Success. 29%
  • Flop. 71%

24 total votes.

The tax increase pushed the average total price for a pack of stogies up to $9 per pack, which blows fast food out of the water as the most expensive habit that’s slowly killing us.

The Lung Association was a staunch proponent of this move, as it is of any tax increase on smokes. That leads us to the recent report.

What’s most interesting about it is not that the association unsurprisingly gives New York top marks for its tobacco taxes and anti-smoking laws, but that when it comes to tobacco use prevention and cessation services, the state scores solid Fs.

This fits so well with the stereotypical view of New York government it’s comical. According to the American Lung Association, New York passes restrictive laws and high taxes extremely well, and fails at everything else.

Really? Do tell.

This, of course, was not the outcome supporters of the tax hike had hoped for. The new cigarette tax was supposed to be put toward healthcare and smoking cessation programs, but the astronomical price of smokes spurred plenty of New Yorkers to quit recently (good for them), or at least stop buying cigarettes bearing an Empire State tax seal.

This has in turn impacted the $130 million windfall of tax receipts some had predicted when the tax was passed. In fact, recent reports from the capitol indicate cigarette tax receipts have stayed just about level from pre-tax hike days.

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