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Smoking Rates, Smuggling on the Rise in the Big Apple

by Lee Schalk / /

Despite the ungodly cigarette tax rates in New York City, the number of smokers in the Big Apple has reached 1 million people for the first time in years, according to the latest findings from New York City’s Department of Health. Hate to say we told you so – but we’ve been saying for years that higher taxes on tobacco aren’t the answer.

The Department found that 16 percent of adult New Yorkers were lighting up in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2010. This might come as a surprise to folks like Michael Bloomberg, who helped to usher in a host of new restrictions and higher taxes on smokers during his time as mayor. Currently, the city bans smoking in most public places, including parks, bars and restaurants, while sticking smokers with an extra $5.85 in taxes per pack.

While Bloomberg evidently has not succeeded in curbing smoking rates, he can take credit for bolstering the city’s thriving cigarette black market. Indeed, the illegal cigarette trade is booming. In fact, the Tax Foundation estimates that nearly 57 percent of the Empire State’s smokes are smuggled, the highest percentage among states. Is it a coincidence that New York happens to have the highest state cigarette tax? We think not.