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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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Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:36 | 2816449 pursueliberty
pursueliberty's picture

You might not.

My FIL quit chewing tabacco cold turkey two years ago cold turkey.  He missed it every single day until he started back due to his temper.  A dipper myself, I couldn't imagine going without.  I too enjoy a cigarette, pipe, or good cigar on occasion, but never once found them to be addicting, and I've been a pack a day smoker at times.  I doubt I've had five cigarettes this year, and I've had maybe 20 cigars.  I would smoke a cigar a day, but the brands I seem to like would set me back another few grand a year on addictions, of which I'd rather spend on whisky.


Thu, 09/20/2012 - 19:06 | 2816501 YHC-FTSE
YHC-FTSE's picture

I'll give you a +1 for reminding me of happier times. Not much of a Whiskey fan, but after dinner cigar with coffee and a bottle of late bottled vintage port (Surprisingly good value) was my thing. 

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:19 | 2816602 IrritableBowels
IrritableBowels's picture

The black n' mild summer blends are my favorite (though I have to look hard for them) with the wine flavored a close second, especially after a nice GREEN session. INHALE, BITCHEZ!

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:20 | 2816606 IrritableBowels
IrritableBowels's picture

The black n' mild summer blends are my favorite (though I have to look hard for them) with the wine flavored a close second, especially after a nice GREEN session. INHALE, BITCHEZ!

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 19:18 | 2816517 Arkadaba
Arkadaba's picture

Mmmm - Gitanes ...

Nice description of the allure of smoking. And yes smoking is very social. Back in the day when you could smoke while travelling, I had a friend (non-smoker) who always booked her ticket in the smoking section because she claimed she met more interesting people that way.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 22:47 | 2816821 tip e. canoe
tip e. canoe's picture

sounds like Mayor Mikey if he would be willing to admit it.   unfortnately he doesn't, which makes him 10x worse.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:21 | 2816106 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Now I know why my nicorette is going up.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:28 | 2816126 Ralph Spoilsport
Ralph Spoilsport's picture

Nicotine gum is a total ripoff. It also irritated my throat, which is why I have been "vaping" for 3 years. Have you tried getting nicotine gum on eBay? It's a lot cheaper - $20 a box. Habitrol is made in Denmark and lasts longer than Nicorrette.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:28 | 2816139 LULZBank
LULZBank's picture

Fuck that shit bro... I smoke for da style...

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:01 | 2816252 Papasmurf
Papasmurf's picture

Bro, your pres agrees wid yah.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:32 | 2816161 NoTTD
NoTTD's picture

I've got some two-way sneeze through wind vents for you.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:36 | 2816178 Ralph Spoilsport
Ralph Spoilsport's picture

Does the radio pick up Tierra del Fuego?

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:23 | 2816112 Darth Rayne
Darth Rayne's picture

It is a very great pity that they do  not spend this money on something useful. Perhaps silver. Then trade this amongst themselves.The poor are poor but there are literally millions of them. It is a great shame that they can't agree on a common cause and then stand behind it.


They could easily destroy the current financial system. One can only conclude that they like it.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:30 | 2816153 NoTTD
NoTTD's picture

The po' done know nuthin bout no "current financial system".  Thay ain't likely to rise agin it.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:25 | 2816121 LULZBank
LULZBank's picture

Well... Rule 1 of Elite Club is: You squeeze the poor.

Rule 2: You squeeze them some more.

Rule 3: You squeeze even more till nothing is left.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:46 | 2816214 Tijuana Donkey Show
Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

Rule 4, grind the leftovers into sausage. Sell to hungry poor, mark-up with claim of "free range meat."

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:55 | 2816246 Ratscam
Ratscam's picture

reminds me of the production method of the famous italian grappa made out of grape waste.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:06 | 2816402 Hedgetard55
Hedgetard55's picture

Love me some grappa, distilled from the lees of the wine after fermentation. Brandy is the same thing.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:25 | 2816125 Tsunami Wave
Tsunami Wave's picture

Don Draper paid probably nothing in cigarette taxes compared to today...

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:27 | 2816127 NoTTD
NoTTD's picture

Only 25%? Pikers.  They'll never get dead that way.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:27 | 2816132 Meesohaawnee
Meesohaawnee's picture

if all taxes/lack there of  were in the interest of safety. All hand held phones while driving would be banned. In my opinion THE greatest threat on the road. I dont deal with drunks on my morning commute. I deal with insecure I - idiots at every time

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:29 | 2816142 topspinslicer
topspinslicer's picture

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:29 | 2816145 slaughterer
slaughterer's picture

Heroin for Obummer/Lohan, iPhones for the rest of you shits.  The way of the nation.   

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:34 | 2816167 Black Forest
Black Forest's picture

Well situated, rich and sophisticated people like me spend approx 0.0001 per cent annually for smoking and buying treasuries. I do appreciate smoking.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:34 | 2816168 drivenZ
drivenZ's picture

wait, so you're telling me if someone that makes 20k/yr buys a $12 pack of cigarettes they're spending a higher % of their income on cigarettes than someone that makes $100k/yr who buys a $12 pack of cigarettes?


holy shit...this is a serious revelation.   

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:37 | 2816171 Seorse Gorog fr...
Seorse Gorog from that Quantum Entanglement Fund. alright_.-'s picture

Don't smoke fags, smoke da reefa.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:36 | 2816174 Count de Money
Count de Money's picture

The dirty little secret is that the government makes more money off of cigarettes than the tobacco companies.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:36 | 2816176 Zymurguy
Zymurguy's picture

Proof positive that taxes on cigarettes is racist!

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:39 | 2816190 Schmuck Raker
Schmuck Raker's picture

Wrap the tobacco in lottery tickets, replacing cigarette paper. Next problem, quick...I'm on a roll!

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:45 | 2816208 LULZBank
LULZBank's picture

LULZ were had!

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:41 | 2816199 slaughterer
slaughterer's picture

I just smoke HIGH-END MARIJUANA between TRADES.. like ROBOTRADER, MY DEALER.  / sarc

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:45 | 2816207 Gloeschi
Gloeschi's picture

This is so unfair. When poor people quit smoking, it's like getting a 25% pay hike.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:46 | 2816217 LULZBank
LULZBank's picture

And job losses at Philip Morris...

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:03 | 2816256 ParkAveFlasher
ParkAveFlasher's picture

...and how will the Health Care Industry ever recover?  You are taking away huge swaths of their "demand".

And what about all those well-heeled money launderers who use cancer research non-profits to wash black market payments for underground MDMA and Coke trades! 

Don't they have rights, too?


fuckin bullshit world alkhal;skdha

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:05 | 2816264 Papasmurf
Papasmurf's picture

Altria is so stingy in these times with only a 5.24% dividend yield.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:46 | 2816216 wagthetails
wagthetails's picture

and why "I can't afford to pay taxes, or even some portion of health care" is BS.  lower income people just don't value their health enough to pay for it.  Smoking is terrible, but i beleive in freedom.  just don't ask me to pay for the choices you make. 

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:47 | 2816220 SmoothCoolSmoke
SmoothCoolSmoke's picture

Smoke a pipe.  Cheaper....and it draws women like a magnet.  No lie.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 19:38 | 2816544 Rainman
Rainman's picture

Fuk that..I got a houseful of females. I'm always scheming to get AWAY from them.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:48 | 2816224 wandstrasse
wandstrasse's picture

debt, drugs, oil... idleness, hedonism, obtuseness... the elite knows and exploits and feeds only our weaknesses... our strengths got buried and forgotten..

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:48 | 2816226 azzhatter
azzhatter's picture

what is the tax in ny on crack?

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:31 | 2816444 Jstanley011
Jstanley011's picture

The politicos skim that off the top, so it's priced in like a VAT.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:49 | 2816227 rockraider3
rockraider3's picture

How does the math work on this?  I'm assuming the $60k in income is Gross and we probably should use Net, but let's go with it.  2% x $60k = $1,200.  All else equal, if a "poor" smoker spends the same $1,200 in smokes, which represents 25% of their income, then they are making $4,800 in annual income.  What????  I'm not sure how anyone could live on $4,800/year, and doubt that they can do it while throwing 25% of that out the window on cancer sticks.

And since when is $60k/year considered "wealthy".

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:00 | 2816250 Getting Old Sucks
Getting Old Sucks's picture

Pack a day times 365.  $12.00 times 365 equals $4,380.  Minimum wage?  About 16k?  About right.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:50 | 2816230 dwdollar
dwdollar's picture

New Yorkers must be dumb as fuck. Do they still make fun of people in the middle of the country? I guarantee we don't pay 25% of our income on cigarettes out here. It's called the Internet and the black market dumb-shits. Maybe you should look into them.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:26 | 2816308 Count de Money
Count de Money's picture

We're not as dumb as you think because we tried all those things. And they blocked them off (or tried to). It's how things work here in the People's Republic of New York.

First there was the internet. They first passed a law making it illegal for Fedex and UPS to deliver cigarettes to NYS. They couldn't do anything about the USPS though. Then they got the credit card companies to stop processing payments to internet sites. Could still do bank wires.

Then NY got a court ruling (I think it was a default judgement) forcing the internet companies to turn over their customer lists. If you showed up on one of those lists, they hit you with the taxes and a fine. I know people this happened to.

Then NY got US Customs to seize cigarettes coming in from sites in Switzerland and Russia, even though it was legal by customs treaties.

Then they cut off the Indian reservations by making the distributors apply the taxes before the cigarettes were sold to the reservations.

I'm just waiting for NY to set up customs booths on the George Washington Bridge.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:53 | 2816371 LostWages
LostWages's picture

I've been smoking cigs from a "roll your own" shop for 3 years. Basically, you buy tobacco and tubes and they rent you the machine which rolls a carton in 10 minutes.  Cost $28.50 per carton.

But big tobacco didn't like the competition and the fools on the hill (still the best politicians money can buy), increased the tax on the tobacco from a buck and change per pound to over $26 per lb.  They required the tobacco shops with these machines to apply for cigarette manufacturing license. 

My local store in CA closed for several weeks but is now open again as an injunction was applied for since it is impossible to get a manufacturing license.  The store is now a private club and the membership fee gives you part ownership in the machine....therefore the "members" are using their own equipment to make the smokes.

Another example of the govt being in the protection racket looking out for the best interests of big tobacco while fucking over the small business people who opened up these stores and the consumer wishing to save a buck or two. 

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:58 | 2816232 LouisDega
LouisDega's picture

You dont drink, you dont smoke. What do you do?

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:01 | 2816251 fuu
fuu's picture

Subtle innuendo follows, must be something inside.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:54 | 2816242 Count de Money
Count de Money's picture

The combined NYS and NYC cigarette taxes are $58.50 a carton. Just to show you how ridiculous cigarette prices are in NYC:

Take a bus down to Washington DC ($20).
When you get there, hop on the metro and go over to Virginia ($2.50).
Buy just one carton ($5 a carton Virginia tax).
Take the metro back to DC ($2.50).
Hop on the bus back to NYC ($20).

Total cost: $50

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:19 | 2816269 fuu
fuu's picture

But but but:


It is very easy...

No wordy bull shit regulations, a simple tobacco tax...

Cut some other tax to make it rev. neutral....

Tax bad behaviour, homo economicus will figure it out....

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:29 | 2816327 10mm
10mm's picture

Nursing home full of non smokers,fuck that shit.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 17:45 | 2816358 El Tuco
El Tuco's picture

In Canada there is a large black market for cigarettes. When the Gov raised taxes people started to smuggle from the USA across the Indian reservations that span the borders. Philip Morris was even in on it and billions of dollars of revenue was lost. The Government got smart and cracked down on the Philip Morris, etc so the Indians got smarter and just started their own cigarette factories. If you travel through a reservation or there is one close by, you can purchase good quality cigarettes for about $3 a pack or $30 a carton. From what I understand people buy cases and bring them into the cities and basically sell them at a small mark up to make a profit. Indians are doing a brisk business and people are saving $7 a pack.



Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:00 | 2816380 Heyoka Bianco
Heyoka Bianco's picture

I thought po' folk only bought single cigarettes? That's what I see at the corner store.

Wouldn't an actual cigar be a better economic bet?

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:30 | 2816438 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Cigars are a lot more popular among the younger set--say, under 20 or so.  It's not obvious to me whether it's for the tobacco or the shell, though, as I see many of the same customers buying "blunt wrappers," too.

(OH, a nice detail: a lot of blunt wrappers are candy flavored.  You know...for KIDS!)

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 18:31 | 2816442 Zap Powerz
Zap Powerz's picture

We would have a lot less poor if we quit fucking feeding them.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 19:49 | 2816555 newengland
newengland's picture

We would have a lot less expense if we stopped feeding two-faced tax grabbing obese politicians and their lobbyists.

Yes. That's you: banksters feeding your political whores.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 19:06 | 2816502 itstippy
itstippy's picture

"They tax Hell out of booze and smokes and gas.  It costs megabucks just to drink and drive anymore! What a country."

 - a classic rant from my buddy Lenny, pissing & moaning about the gubmint. 

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 19:45 | 2816552 newengland
newengland's picture

New Yorkers are lab rats.

Oi! Give me something...a dual passport. Oi! My therapist is on vacation. Give me a cigarette...a scotch...a bagel. DO SOMETHING for me.

New Yorkers are lab rats, their own statist mind, unlike anywhere else in the country.

A New York State of mind, a statist mind, a tax grabbing mind; expensive benefit whores.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:10 | 2816582 10mm
10mm's picture

Wheres the 5 families when you need em?Henry Hill,where are youuuuuu.Actually "Jimmy The Gents of the world".

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:13 | 2816591 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

An smokers never live long enough to collect their Social Security.  That's a big savings.  We should pay people to smoke.


Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:22 | 2816597 dolph9
dolph9's picture

I have noticed amongst smokers a certain "fuck you" faux libertarianism.

Ok, fine.  Smoke all you want.  When you are dying from a heart attack or lung cancer and don't have any money left, don't expect government funded ambulances and doctors to come to your rescue.  Tough it out with some whiskey.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:47 | 2816635's picture

Do you believe that I should be forced to pay into Medicare and not get any benefits?

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 20:51 | 2816644 One eyed man
One eyed man's picture

The funny thing is that the US government subsidizes tobacco farmers. About $200 million/year from 2008-2011.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 21:56 | 2816729 Xanadu_doo
Xanadu_doo's picture

Hey. You. Buddy. Yeah you. 

Guess what...

I'm takin ur fuckin money, bitchez.


and again and again.

more and more and more.

Every possible dirty devious shitty way I can.

And dont even fucking think about complaining or its off to the fema camps, ok?



-Uncle Sam

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 22:11 | 2816757 _SILENCER
_SILENCER's picture

The tobacco taxes in Cali are astronomical as well. Cigs aren't my thing, but I smoked as a kid, and I can't imagine how people can even afford it now. Next thing you know they'll embargo Cuban cigars.

 I've often thought about grabbing a box of Bolivars or Montecristos from Puroswiss or some other Euro cigar outlet, but after reading above about the Feds boosting those Swiss flights packed with cigs, the thought of some customs dingleberry grabbing my $225.00 smokes and passing them out to his buddies makes my skin crawl.

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 23:17 | 2816879 galtgulch9
galtgulch9's picture

When you smoke cigarettes the normal lining of the bronchi which is pseudo-stratified, ciliated, columnar epithelium is changed in a process called squamous metaplasia to dead skin like dry pre cancerous lining which lacks the self cleaning mechanism of the normal lining. If one stops smoking the normal lining is restored.

But when you smoke cigarettes the walls of the alveoli, where oxygen is transported into the red blood cells in the capillaries which are in the walls, disappear between adjacent alveoli, enlarging the air sack but reducing the surface area of all the alveoli within the lungs available to absorb oxygen. Since this process of respiration is the only way human being have of getting oxygen into their blood stream and excreting carbon dioxide, one can look forwards to years of gasping for breathe in old age.

I tell this to young patients I encounter daily in my practice so they have the knowledge they need to help them make the decision which has successfully been made by tens of millions of smokers who quit rather than suffer emphysema in their life.

Sadly, the celebrity, Johnny Carson, who was a heavy smoker for many years and believed it did not harm him had a rude awakening. He was on his beautiful motor yacht in the Pacific not far from his home on the Coast when he decided to drop anchor and go for a swim. He took a few strokes and lost his breath. IN that moment her realized that the smoking had taken its toll and he could not enjoy his later years of retirement in good health instead he suffered from depression and soon passed away.

I attend  meetings with hundreds of doctors and none of them smoke. Take a lesson.

On October 12, Ayn Rand's movie version of her famous novel Atlas Shrugged part two will be shown in theaters. She was a smoker too, had a lung removed, and died before her time.

Read her novel and don;t stop there. Read her non fiction too.




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