The $1 hike is the first cigarette tax increase since 2010 and changes the tax from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack of 20 cigarettes. Research shows a 10 percent increase in tobacco prices would be expected to decrease tobacco consumption by 4 percent in high-income countries.
“The math is straightforward: the higher the cost of a pack of cigarettes, the less likely people are to continue or start smoking,” said Brielle Carnright, tobacco project coordinator at The Heart Network, a Saranac Lake-based nonprofit that works with healthcare providers and public health agencies to help people quit smoking. “This tax hike is one of the most efficient, effective ways to decrease smoking rates in our communities.”
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network projects the impact of the higher tax will save 15,300 New Yorkers’ lives and prevent 14,400 youth under age 18 from becoming adults who smoke. The latest data from the New York State Department of Health shows that one in five high school-age youth uses tobacco products; the state spends approximately $9.7 billion annually on preventable smoking-related health care costs.
“While this tax hike represents a significant step in our efforts to help people quit smoking, we’re still highly concerned about the impact of flavored tobacco products such as cigars, cigarillos and e-cigarettes,” Carnright said.
Tobacco companies use flavors like menthol in tobacco products to make them more appealing to new users, almost all of whom are under 18. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 81 percent of youth who have ever tried tobacco started with a flavored product; more than half of youth ages 12-17 who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
In 2019, New York raised the minimum legal sale age to purchase tobacco and vapor products to 21, established a 20 percent tax on vaping products and required registration for vapor product retailers to regulate the sale of these products to restrict access, especially among young people. Those policies were followed in 2020 by several strategies that restrict youth access to tobacco and vaping products. Among other things, new state laws ended the sale of tobacco and vapor products in pharmacies, banned the sale of flavored vapor products, ended price discounts on tobacco products and stopped the shipment and delivery of vapor products to private residences.
Health care providers and the New York State Smokers’ Quitline provide support to smokers who want to quit, and quitting leads to fewer smokers, the potential for better health outcomes and reduced health care costs. When health care providers treat nicotine addiction with medication and counseling, it can double or even triple their patients’ chances of success. The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a free and confidential service for all New York State residents who wish to overcome use of commercial tobacco and/or vape products. Participants can receive individualized coaching and assistance with quit planning from highly trained tobacco treatment specialists, text and online chat support, and a free starter supply delivery of nicotine replacement therapy medications such as patches, gum and/or lozenges for those 18 and older. Residents of all ages may contact the Quitline for support and educational materials. Visit nysmokefree.com anytime or text QUITNOW to 333888 for more information, or call 1-866-NY-QUITS seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m.
In northern New York, The Heart Network and Glens Falls Hospital partner to offer North Country Nicotine Consultants (NCNC), a program that provides resources and consultation to health care providers to help increase delivery of comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for nicotine addiction. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.