Sales taxes on tobacco products in New York, particularly cigarettes, have increased steadily in recent years, and the state boasts the highest in the nation at $4.35 a pack.
The Senate’s one-house budget bill wouldn’t change that, but it would reduce taxes on cigars. The current excise tax on cigars is 75 percent of the wholesale price. The Senate wants to cut that to 75 percent of the wholesale price or 50 cents, whichever is less. The tax on cigars with a wholesale price of $2.25— about $8.00 retail, including tax—would be lower than it is now, for example.
“Why the Senate would want to cut the tax on cigars is beyond me,” said Blair Horner, the American Cancer Society’s vice president of advocacy for New York and New Jersey. “All you’re going to do is make it easier for people to smoke them, and for children to start smoking them.”
The budgets proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Assembly would not change the cigar tax. Lawmakers and the governor are in negotiations on the 2013-14 state budget. The new fiscal year begins April 1, although a new budget is expected before then.
A spokesman for the Senate Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Independent Democratic Conference, which jointly controls the Senate with the GOP, had no comment on the cigar-tax proposal.
Cigar smoking has increased dramatically since 1993, according to the American Cancer Society. Consumption grew 123 percent between 2010 and 2011. At the same time, cigarette smoking decreased 32.5 percent, the group said.
The cigar tax of 75 percent of the wholesale price applies to large cigars. The cigarette tax is the same for all cigarettes, regardless of the wholesale price. In most cases, the tax is more than the wholesale cost of the cigarettes.
Cigars don’t cause as much lung cancer as cigarettes, but smoking them can lead to cancers of the lung, oral cavity, larynx and esophogus, the American Cancer Society’s memo opposing the cigar tax said. People who are heavy cigar smokers have a higher risk of coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it said.
Here’s Horner speaking about the proposal: