A new study has investigated the potential benefits of New York's hefty cigarette tax, and the results are mixed. The study, conducted by the non-profit research group RTI on behalf of New York state's health department, found that poor smokers in New York spend a quarter of their entire income on cigarettes, Reuters reported. That's twice the national average that the typical poor smoker spends on cigarettes. In addition, the study found no "significant decline" in smoking among poor New Yorkers since 2003, even though other income groups did see a decline.
The smokers pay so much because New York has the nation's highest cigarette tax, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, wealthier smokers, or those who earn a salary of more than $60,000, spend only 2 percent of their income on cigarettes.
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But people who earn less than $30,000 waste 25 percent of their income on the habit. "The poor pay $600 million in cigarette taxes and get little help in quitting," Russ Sciandra of the American Cancer Society told the AP.
To solve this problem, researchers proposed that the state should put the money it makes from the cigarette tax program into helping poor people quit smoking. "Excise taxes are effective in changing smokers' behavior," study author Matthew Farrelly, senior director of RTI's public health policy program, told HealthDay. "But not all smokers are able to quit, and low-income smokers are disproportionately burdened by these taxes."