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.