Low-income smokers in New York drop 25 percent of their income on cigarettes
Taxes on cigarettes are considered “sin taxes,” costs intended, in part, to punish bad behavior. One bad behavior that cigarette taxes in New York punish: being poor.
From the AP:
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. …
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 American Cancer Society’s Russ] 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.
To some extent, this is a function of percentages. If you only have $100, $25 will seem much more dear than if you have $1 million. But the impact is real. The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson wrote about how people at various income levels spend their money. For an average low-income household, housing, utilities, and transportation alone generally eat up almost three-quarters of the budget.
More telling, though, is this graph.
If low-income households have $2,450 to spend at their discretion each year, dropping $12 a few times a week on smokes is a massive cost. And for a behavior that is rooted in physical addiction, it’s a tremendously difficult cost to eliminate.