Upcoming $1 cigarette tax hike projected to save 15,300 New Yorkers’ lives

Higher costs deter youth from smoking, but flavored tobacco products continue to attract and addict new smokers
Health care providers and the NYS Smokers’ Quitline offer support for quitting 

ONONDAGA COUNTY, AUGUST 30, 2023 – Beginning Sept. 1, 2023, New York State’s cigarette tax will be the highest in the nation. The $1 hike is the first cigarette tax increase since 2010 and changes the tax from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack of 20 cigarettes. Research shows a 10% increase in tobacco prices would be expected to decrease tobacco consumption by 4% in high-income countries.

Increasing the cost of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to promote smoking cessation and prevent youth initiation. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network projects the impact of the higher tax will save 15,300 New Yorkers’ lives and prevent 14,400 youth under age 18 from becoming adults who smoke. The latest data from the NYS Department of Health show that one in five high school-age youth uses tobacco products. New York State spends approximately $9.7 billion annually on preventable smoking-related health care costs.

“Recent survey data in Onondaga County indicates 16.1% of adults are smokers, higher than New York State’s 12% average,” said Meghan Hallihan, Tobacco-Free CNY’s public health educator. “By implementing a proven tobacco control intervention, we can prevent youth from trying tobacco and encourage existing smokers to quit, resulting in lower smoking rates. Smoking-related illnesses are the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, so policies aiming to reduce the number of people who smoke could save many lives.” 

Flavored tobacco products continue to attract and addict new smokersWhile higher cigarette costs are proven to reduce youth smoking and prevent initiation, flavored tobacco products like cigars, cigarillos and chew continue to attract and addict new tobacco users. Tobacco companies use flavors like menthol in tobacco products to make them more appealing to new users, almost all of whom are under 18. Eighty-one percent of youth who have ever tried tobacco started with a flavored product; more than half (54%) of youth ages 12-17 who smoke use menthol cigarettes.

Tax increase is the latest in strong, evidence-based tobacco control policies enacted by New York State to prevent smoking initiation, promote cessation

In 2019, New York raised the minimum legal sale age to purchase tobacco and vapor products to 21, established a 20% tax on vaping products, and required registration for vapor product retailers to regulate the sale of these products to restrict access, especially among young people. 

Those policies were followed in 2020 by several strategies that restrict youth access to tobacco and vaping productsAmong other things, new state laws ended the sale of tobacco and vapor products in pharmacies, banned the sale of flavored vapor products, ended price discounts on tobacco products, and stopped the shipment and delivery of vapor products to private residences. 

Support available for New Yorkers who want to quit smoking and vapingHealth care providers and the New York State Smokers’ Quitline provide support to smokers who want to quit, and quitting leads to fewer smokers, the potential for better health outcomes and reduced health care costs. When health care providers treat nicotine addiction with medication and counseling, it can double or even triple their patients’ chances of success. The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a free and confidential service for all New York State residents who wish to overcome use of commercial tobacco and/or vape products. Participants can receive individualized coaching and assistance with quit planning from highly trained tobacco treatment specialists, text and online chat support, and a free starter supply delivery of nicotine replacement therapy medications such as patches, gum and/or lozenges for those 18 and older. Residents of all ages may contact the Quitline for support and educational materials. Visit nysmokefree.com anytime or text QUITNOW to 333888 for more information, or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m.