(Corrects story from Wednesday to show tax is per pack, rather
than per carton)
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK, Sept 19 Poor smokers in New York State
spend about a quarter of their entire income on cigarettes,
nearly twice as much as the national average for low-income
smokers, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by the non-profit research group RTI on
behalf of the state's health department, found there was no
statistically significant decline in the prevalence of smoking
among poorer New Yorkers between 2003 and 2010, even as the
habit declined by about 20 percent among all income groups.
"Although high cigarette taxes are an effective method for
reducing cigarette smoking, they can impose a significant
financial burden on low-income smokers," Matthew Farrelly and
his co-authors wrote in the conclusion of their paper, which was
published this month in Plos One, an online, peer-reviewed
Using data from the state health department's New York Adult
Tobacco Survey, researchers calculated that smokers in New York
earning less than $30,000 a year spent an average of 23.6
percent of their earnings on cigarettes, compared with about
14.2 percent nationally.
The state's wealthier smokers - those earning over $60,000 -
spent an average of 2.2 percent of their income on the habit,
about the same as the national figure.
New York has the highest state cigarette tax in the nation,
at $4.35 a pack, compared with a national average of $1.46. New
York City imposes an additional $1.50 tax. The researchers said
they did not have enough data to measure whether city residents
were shelling out an even larger portion of their earnings on
The low-income now spend twice as much of their earnings on
cigarettes as they did in 2003, when the state imposed a tax of
$1.50 on each pack.
The researchers concluded that to make the cigarette tax
less regressive, the state should spend more of the resulting
revenue on programs that help low-income smokers quit the habit,
although both the researchers and the health department say this
would be a challenge.
"They can be a hard-to-reach population," Peter
Constantakes, a health department spokesman, said in an
interview on Wednesday.
Raising the cost of cigarettes through taxation is a proven
method of encouraging smokers to quit, he said.
The state spends about $41 million a year on tobacco control
programs - about half of what it spent four years ago.
(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Leslie Adler; Desking by Vicki