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Lawmakers approve cigarette tax

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:31 p.m.

New Yorkers are going to have to pay over $10 for a pack of cigarettes thanks to a new tax approved by state lawmakers on Monday.

The new tobacco legislation raises the tax on cigarettes from $2.75 to $4.35. The tax is an effort to raise revenue, along with getting New Yorkers to kick the habit. When the tax increase tax effect on July 1, New York State will have the highest cigarette tax in the nation.

In the city, there is already a $1.60 tax that will jump to $5.85. Democrats opposed the bill, but many voted in favor of it because the tax would raise state revenue.

Along with taxing cigarettes, the bill also puts a tax on snuff starting August 1 for $2 an ounce. Indian tax collection will begin on September 1. The state will now be authorized to collect taxes on cigarettes from non-tribal customers on Native American lands. The Indian tax didn't sit too well with some Democrats.

"We are on their land and I think it's wrong for us to tax Native Americans," State Sen. Eric Adams said before the vote. "I am going to vote for this bill because I don't want to shut down the government."

An estimated $440 million will be raised to help close the $9.2 billion budget gap. While all of this is going on, the state budget remains nearly three months late.

According to the New York State Smokers' Quitline, cigarette use remains the leading preventable cause of death, responsible for the deaths of 440,000 Americans annually, including 25,500 New Yorkers.

Each year, 571,000 New Yorkers suffer from serious cigarette-caused diseases and the medical expenses associated with the treatment of these diseases costs New Yorkers $8.2 billion, including $5.4 billion in Medicaid.

Smoking in the Black community is down, according to statistics, which indicate that 19.8 percent of all Blacks smoke compared to a few years ago when 29 percent of Black men and 21 percent of women smoked.