Cigarette Tax Not Stopping Smokers

This summer’s state cigarette tax has caused many to snuff out their addictions, but this is not the case for many SUNY New Paltz smokers.

The tax was instituted with the intent to discourage smokers for health reasons and create some deeply needed profits for the state. Since the tax was instated on July 1,  New York underwent a $1.60 increase for each pack of cigarettes. On average, a pack now costs roughly $9.20. In New York City, which has its own cigarette taxes, the average pack now costs around $11.

“I used to pay with a ten and get change,” said Nicole Forte, a third-year communication disorders major, “but now I need more money.”

Forte stated that the new tax has not staunched her habit.  “If anything, I smoke more and just look for more ways to make money,” she said.

The tax increase was intended not only to persuade people to put out their cigarettes, but also to generate funds for health care programs. Tobacco cessation programs, subsidies from AIDS medication and the cancer research center in Buffalo are among those who will receive the estimated $440 million in additional revenues.

Third-year English major Lauren Sullivan believes the purported reasons behind the new tax to be simply a façade. “It’s supposed to be for health reasons, but the tax is really just to make more money off people,” she said. Sullivan, whose cigarette of choice is Camel Lights, admits to buying cigarettes that are on sale or have a discount, and not what she really enjoys.

To campus Grounds Supervisor Dale Sutton’s chagrin, student smokers do not seem to be dwindling.

“You’re asking the right person ‘cause I’m the one who has to pick up those things,” said Sutton. The number of cigarette butts littering the ground, sometimes inches away from trash bins, has not decreased, he said.

But Sutton has a solution.

“Every pack and each cigarette should have a number,” said Sutton, who recommends tracking the litterers.

The tax may become a more effective deterrent in a time when smokers’ pockets feel the long-term drain of their habits. Until then, it seems people are willing to fork over ten spots for their cravings – odds are with a grumble and a frown.
View Cigarette Tax in each state in the U.S.
Map by Nekaiya Trotman

Julia Amberg

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