Poor New Yorkers Spend 25% Of Income On Cigarettes

Tyler Durden's picture

It sucks to be poor. It sucks to smoke (broadly speaking). But most of all, it sucks to be a poor smoker in New York. This is the finding from a study conducted by RTI's Public Health Policy Research Program which shows that low-income smokers in New York spend 25 percent of their income on cigarettes, a finding that led a smokers' rights advocate to say it proves high taxes are regressive and ineffective. Bloomberg reports: "In New York, with the nation's highest cigarette taxes, a pack of cigarettes can cost $12, though many smokers have turned to cheaper cigarettes bought online and by using roll-your-own devices. Wealthier smokers — those earning $60,000 or more — spend 2 percent on cigarettes, according to the study." The imminent solution: hike taxes even more of course. After all it is not like broke New York City needs the cash broke smokers will stop using EBT cards and other forms of cheap credit to feed addictions. And while at it, hike school tuitions a little more: in a society in which the only peddled hope of regaining the American dream is graduation with an advanced pottery degree, and in which (non-dischargeable) student debt costs nothing, what is the downside?

Amusingly, it seems America has something resembling a smoker's union:

for smokers, the study proves cigarette taxes are punitive and "undeniably regressive," said Audrey Silk of CLASH, a national smokers' rights organization.


"It busts their theory that high taxes equal submission to their coercive measure at the same time," she said. She criticized government "anti-smokers" who jack up taxes, but she also found with anti-smoking groups like the Cancer Society.


"Ulterior motives abound ... to generate bad news as reason to tighten the screws and fish for more funding to do it with," she said. "They enrich themselves at the expense of those they helped stigmatize."

The government however refuses to take the bait:

Peter Constantakes of the state Health Department argues that tax increases and other programs are helping people kick the habit.


"Cigarette taxes are an evidence-based intervention that has proven successful in encouraging smokers to quit," he said. "New York is promoting a number of anti-smoking initiatives, including targeted media campaigns, that are designed to reduce the smoking rate among lower-income groups and prevent young people from becoming smokers."

Apparently not, especially when handouts in various forms such as EBT cards, foodstamps and the like, do not serve as a sufficient incentive to put the cigarette down, and merely transfer money from easy sources of credit to cash strapped entities who can tax the living daylights out of credit incurring intermediaries.

But if monetary considerations do not stop smokers from lighting up, the government can just say it tried its best and begin regulating daily smoking intake in addition to everything else. Naturally that would crush vice tax revenues by the same broke striken-through entities observed above. And in a world in which there is virtually no organic cash flow left, this simply will not stand.

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Raymond Reason's picture

The Surgeon General is fat, if i remember correctly.  Gluttony is a sin.  Smoking not. 

Top_Kill's picture

Funny, when you replace a couple key words, the argument quickly is discredited by those left of center. Watch this:


Peter Constantakes of the state Health Department argues that tax increases and other programs are helping people kick the  habit.

"Cigarette taxes are an evidence-based intervention that has proven successful in encouraging smokers to quit," he said. "New York is promoting a number of anti-smoking initiatives, including targeted media campaigns, that are designed to reduce the smoking rate among lower-income groups and prevent young people from becoming smokers."







Peter Constantakes of the DNC argues that tax increases and other programs are helping people kick the employment habit.


"New York State employment taxes are an evidence-based intervention that has proven successful in encouraging workers to quit," he said. "New York is promoting a number of anti-working initiatives, including targeted media campaigns, that are designed to reduce the working rate among lower-income groups and prevent young people from becoming employed."

LULZBank's picture

You just found the Holy Grail of bullshit!

Precious's picture

At $12 a pack, seems like people would be motivated to grow their own somehow.

Apparently the American Indians were able to do it 200 years ago.

bankruptcylawyer's picture

a few people in the northeast have tried doing this indoors and have gotten in minor trouble. more salient is the fact that there is massive ciggarette smuggling operations. 1 truckload of smuggled smokes can yield a profit of 2 million just in avoiding taxes. 


the sales of tobacco are supposedly highly regulated. the cost per ton of cured tobacco is about 300 or so per ton as of last year. once that tobacco is chopped up, turned into a cigarette with paper, packaged and shipped to you in nyc, and then tax paid on it. the markup to sale is over 99% of the cost, the 1% is the tobacco cost. 

boiltherich's picture

There is no law against growing tobacco for your own use, there is a problem with growing it for sale. Part of the reason it is not done more is that the plant is not all that easy to grow, and it has to be cured, properly air dried, properly cut, and then pretty rapidly used because it goes stale too quickly unless stored in a humidor. Also, smoking from just one plant is not going to taste all that great, though it will give you that nicotine fix you crave, a typical name brand cigarette has tobacco in it from many plants from many regions and countries. Then there is tobacco mosaic, and pests. It can be done but it is not your average gardener's project. If you are healthy, active, have a lot of time on your hands for gardening, and have room for a largish garden with good soil you could do it. But, 4 six foot plants will yield about a carton worth of smokes, and the drying process takes 3 months minimum and preferably a year, some people let it dry for two years. Upside is it is probably healthier than commercial cigarettes because those have undisclosed additives and chemicals. And once you have a supply grown and keep that going the costs of smoking will go way down.

What really surprises me is that there is not a thriving black market for it, and that there are not a lot more cartons of smokes falling off the back of trucks. The highest cigarette prices in the world are in Ireland at about $13.50 a pack, and though they banned smoking in all public places and made the cost simply prohibitive it has not done a whole lot to end smoking. It has fueled smuggling though. For many non smokers this is a great thing, the government telling people they can't smoke, raising the prices to the point of confiscation. Unfortunately for them once the government found out they can tell the smokers to go to hell it became clear that they can also tell fat people what they can and can't drink or eat and in what amounts are acceptable, the super sized soda ban in NYC is just the beginning. By the way, I am pretty sure that that supersize ban has more to do with concession sales at the ball park for Bloomberg's crony republican pals that own teams than about the waistlines of New Yorkers. If a guy sitting down at a ball park with a 12 or 16 ounce soda has to keep going back to the concessions for refills (it gets hot in that stadium sitting in the sun for hours) he is going to smell the hot dogs and snag a couple of those too. Plus, supersize sodas were a lot cheaper per ounce than small sodas, this is going to be a real boon to soda sellers. If I were still living in New York I would just not buy soda anymore. And I would get my smokes via relatives or a friend in a cheap state.

Hey, if my mother could not get me to quit smoking nobody is. The downside is that this just opens the door to the loss of a lot of personal freedoms.


zhandax's picture

I am with you that, if my mother couldn't get me to quit, no one else is.   I do have, as of this year, a couple of Samsun Turkish plants growing in the back lawn as a test for what may be necessary in the future (no problem getting burley around here).  But the most important point of your post is the last sentence,

The downside is that this just opens the door to the loss of a lot of personal freedoms.

tip e. canoe's picture

the ultimate sick & twisted hypocrisy of Mayor Mikey :


2003 ==  Mayor Bloomberg puts Snapple into every New York school

Precious's picture

You mean that diabetes inducing high fructose poison called Snapple, owned by Coca Cola?  That Snapple?  OMG.  Mayor Bloomberg.  Thank you.  You really do believe in eugenics.  New York just has too many people.  Pretty soon Mayor Bloomberg is going to start handing out loaded guns.  What a fucking amateur.

Mr. Magniloquent's picture

It's a common practice for Virginians to purchase cigarettes by the cases and sell the individual packages in NYC. Those with access to military installations in Virginia can even purchase the relatively inexpensive cigarettes tax free. The Quantico Base Exchange actually created a limit on cigarette purchases because of this.

boiltherich's picture

When I went into the service at 17 smoking was encouraged and the exchange sold cartons for $1.12, about 11 cents a pack.  Turns out some of the brass at the Pentagon had cozy and personally profitable deals with tobacco companies to get millions more hooked.  At one point the rate of smoking in the military was over 70%.  Of course when this conspiracy to hook people was uncovered and made public congress quickly passed a law exempting the government from lawsuits over it.  By the way, that was 1976 when I paid 11 cents a pack, I now pay $5 per pack or an increase of 4,545%.  No inflation my hairy man parts!

morpheus000's picture

Let people grow their own tobacco and weed :)

Spastica Rex's picture

And sell their own lemonade!

That might be going too far.

Ar-Pharazôn's picture

sadly true as i saw a group of kids getting arrested for selling lemonade....

bank guy in Brussels's picture

The old TV cigarette and cigar ads were way cool.

And kudos to Tyler for putting up a pic of Don Draper! That's the older America.

Cigarettes in this part of Europe are around € 5 for a pack of 20. Lots of folks roll their own, though.

Here's one of the nice old tobacco TV commercials, for 'Erik' cigars ... 'Flavour comes on like a Viking!' ... '... the most interesting idea from Scandinavia, since the blonde!'


takinthehighway's picture

My, how times have changed...

From 50 years ago, cigarette commercials during "The Flintstones"...


MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

The manifesto of the progressive revolution:

Part 2 - Free Trade

Free trade is absolutely and fundamentally immoral and unethical. There is a distinct philosophical difference between a company hiring someone within the borders of a country, and hiring someone outside the borders of a country. It is perfectly acceptable for a company in Texas to hire workers in Montana, but for a company in New York to hire workers in Canada is morally reprehensible. If somebody happens to be born within the United States, and they decide to start a company within the borders of the United States, they are morally obligated to hire other people within those same geographical borders. Geographical location is a fundamental determining factor in whether an action is moral or immoral.

GFKjunior's picture

Patriotism - The last refuge of a scoundrel. 

Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

Patriotism is right before religion. Religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel. 

FeralSerf's picture

I tought Israel was the last refuge of a scoundrel.

akak's picture

You're very close, but the correct answer is "The US Congress".

zhandax's picture

A company should be able to hire anyone, anywhere, they desire.  A corporation, who has grown to a measurable percentage of GDP, primarily as a result of M&A activity bought from wall street, should be either dismembered under anti-trust law, or taxed back into organic company status by statute.  When are you douchebags going to get it through your heads that the M&A-fueled concentration of corporate power was the death-knell for what was left of the republic?

MillionDollarBogus_'s picture

How much do the NY poor spend on lottery tickets...???

Powerball tickets (poor tax) doubled in price a few months ago...

Life's a bitch when you have to feed addictions...

boiltherich's picture

Million baller donus, trillion squalor pseudomonas, what ever...up yours you troll.

When someone lays down a buck or two on the lottery they are not seriously buying a chance to win, though it COULD happen, they are buying the right to dream of a better life and security because with wealth inequality and economic injustice in America today that is all they can hope to do, dream about a better life. No tickie no dreamie. When the jackpot grows sufficiently in size that I could walk away after taxes with enough to finish out my life the way I would like to I will buy a ticket or two, but I and most others understand that the real utility of the lottery is not as an investment, it is as a form of entertainment that allows your mind the freedom and security that only a Mittens or Corzine usually gets to enjoy. And, with a lottery win you are not going to have to live with the knowledge that you looted the nation or stole from anyone, the bucks come from willing players who all know that any six numbers can lose when they lay that greenback down.

TheCanadianAustrian's picture

"Geographical location is a fundamental determining factor in whether an action is moral or immoral."

Lol. This is the good stuff.

vic and blood's picture

Change "geographical borders" to national borders and I can agree with your statement although it is a little over the top except as sarcasm.

MDB, the ultimate sarcastic poster, is a true Libertarian and believes in open borders. We can't even take care of our own and you want open borders until per capita income is roughly equal world wide. Let us import a foreign national to perform whatever parasitic enterprise that you engage in for your bread. If national borders are so insignificant, then your own property line borders are even less significant. How 'bout I camp in your yard because your place is closer to the jobs?(and your fridge, su fridge mi fridge) You won't mind if I bring along a few hobos from their present geographical location to your geographical location because only a petty person would lower themselves to fuss about geographical locations. Everybody knows geography is for zenophobes.

bankruptcylawyer's picture

free trade is a myth. making fun of people who are against 'free trade' as such underlies the greater ignorance that you are displayign by mocking a fake dichotomy. 

trade revolves around soveriegn will power. which itself exists as in the always dynamic state of of inter-soveriegn relationships which is and has always been punctuated by war. 


it's like talking about human being marrying without talking about how they are born and how they die. marraige is an epiphenomena of life. just as trade is an epiphenomena of the state. 

you could take the globalist position of 'chicken or the egg' and say that the 'state' is an epiphenomena of trade. you wouldn't be entirely wrong. you just wouldn't be correct in saying the 'state' if a result of 'free trade'. it is a result of mutually beneficial and agreed upon trade. trading is a compeititon, often defined by decpetion, misdiretion violence, and even outright fraud. you could call it free if you'd like. just doens't seem apt in explaining the existence of the state. which itself relies upon the monopoly or control of military/police power.

Totentänzerlied's picture

MDB tells the truth: "Free Trade" in reality presently refers to the diametric opposite of actual free trade, and is in fact immoral and unethical.

Ar-Pharazôn's picture


can you tell me the definition of free?

it it's free there is no geographical obligations

kaiserhoff's picture

Pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth.

Why does Moochelle leap to mind?

slaughterer's picture

" in a society in which the only peddled hope of regaining the American dream is graduation with an advanced pottery degree" whoah FUK, ZH is GOD when it prints this language.  Said it to 1000+ people: the best blog in the Keynsian universe... you know who. Our entire PA pool wants to go hardcore with TD.  Pleeze, physical address, pleeze.   We will send them one after another.  

LawsofPhysics's picture

Cue Mr. bloomberg, outlaw cigs, that will show em.

Joe Davola's picture

You can't buy a 16 oz soda, but you can fucking smoke - my head's going to explode.  Yes, I'll be sure to upload a video to youtube - and just for kickers label it something like Mohammed's Head Asplodin

kaiserhoff's picture

Manhattan leads the world in Tranny Bars.  There's your opening panning shot;)

Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

New York, the big Adams apple....

Ignatius's picture

Speaking of New York, I was driving through Iowa recently (heading for NY, see there's a tie in) and came to find out when stopping at a rest stop that smoking was banned therein.  The nice lady servicing the place -- a smoker herself -- told me of the ban.  Sure enough, there on the sign it read:

"Smoking is banned at all Iowa rest stops except in your car with the windows rolled up."

I read it in near disbelief then turned to our fair lady and said "Isn't it ironic that smoking is banned here, yet the biggest threat to the local air quality is I-80 located about 20 yards away?"  She smiled.

Next step -- which of course I fully endorse -- is that we can all drive on I-80 through Iowa as long as your tailpipes terminate in the passenger cabin... with the windows rolled up, of course.

God, help us.

Precious's picture

One time I smoked a cigarette at an Iowa rest stop right in broad daylight.  

RafterManFMJ's picture

I dont smoke, but if ever in that SHIT FASCIST state I will puff like a 19th century locomotive laboring up Brady's Bend.

azzhatter's picture

Egypt has issued a warrant for your arrest

kaiserhoff's picture

Hell yes, and caffeine too.  Think of the DRAMA;)

Waterfallsparkles's picture

Yes, they should tax caffeine as that is also a drug.

Sofa King's picture

No way. The city makes to much on smokes. All this shows is that social engineering is plain crap and an excuse to shake down citizens. I'm just waiting to see the tipping point where stores and people start getting robbed over a pack of Lucky's.

Schmuck Raker's picture

You can't just outlaw cigs, that an infringement of civil liberties.

Cigs should only be sold in packs of 10, or less...that'll do it.

Just common sense really.

LULZBank's picture

They do that in UK and some other countries already. Doesnt really help.

Urban Redneck's picture

Just squeezes more money out of the poor.

I can remember ghetto liquor stores in DC selling idividual cigarettes for 25-35cents when they were selling packs for under $2.00

Count de Money's picture

They do that in England because PM Gordon Brown bumped the taxes so a regular pack costs over £10 pounds. Smaller packs were a response to the price increase.