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Can a Cigarette Tax Hike Increase Health, Reduce Smoking? Push for Hike in NYS Budget

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As many as 60,000 New Yorkers might stop smoking if cigarette taxes were raised a dollar a pack. That’s exactly what the American Heart Association is calling for.

Health advocates from the American Heart Association want the state budget this coming year to include a hike on cigarette taxes … and a jump in taxes on other tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes. An increase in the price of cigarettes has long been shown to help people stop and prevent others – mainly young people – from starting to smoke.

Cardiologist and Heart Association Board Member Doctor Disha Philip wants to counter a troubling reversal of the long trend of smoking decline.

“We are starting to see younger people smoking more. This is horrible. This is devastating! Also, there is a significant disparity in tobacco use amongst certain communities including the black and brown and the LGBTQ and lower incomes and that’s due to the tobacco industry’s targeting of these populations.”

Even worse, she says, younger and younger people are showing up in her practice with heart attacks related to smoking.  High school junior Raghav Joshi works with Students Against Nicotine.  He says the price hike can’t just be on cigarettes. 

“It’s really heartbreaking to watch my friends fall back into these attractive flavors and appealing advertisements. Through these tumultuous times with COVID, we’re stuck at home, we’re stressed from school and we need stimulation. To people that I know, usage becomes more and more attractive and so we have to find a way to disincentivize a purchase and the use of these devices.”

Now, New York and Connecticut have the highest cigarette taxes in the nation currently at $4.35 a pack, with another dollar in federal taxes. The Heart Association estimates that a dollar jump in cigarette taxes will prevent almost 30,000 youth from starting to smoke and save 24,000 lives from being shortened through smoking-related illnesses. It would also raise an estimated 30 million dollars, which could be put into prevention and smoking cessation. The group is urging Governor Cuomo to put the tax hike in his upcoming budget.