Pataki Attacks Cigarette Packs Again

N.Y. gov wants another $1; N.J. goes smoke free, raises buying age to 19

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York Governor George Pataki's new budget proposal, unveiled yesterday, includes a $1 increase in the state's cigarette tax, which would increase the statewide tax on a pack of cigarettes to $2.50, bringing the cost of a pack of smokes to about $6 there.

In response, the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) recently posted the following statement on its website:

Pataki to NY Convenience Stores: 'DROP DEAD!'

Proposed $1 hike in cigarette tax would merely chase

more C-store customers to 'tax-free' side of the street

Governor George Pataki, father of the $1 billion-a-year cigarette tax evasion epidemic that has crippled New York's convenience store industry, has proposed to make it exponentially worse by increasing the state cigarette excise tax by $1.00 a pack.

Under his proposed 2006-07 state budget to be released January 17, the new state tax rate on cigarettes would be $2.50 per pack, highest in the country. In New York City, the $2.50 state tax would be collected, while the city's existing tax would be reduced from $1.50 to 50 cents, keeping the current combined rate of $3.00 per pack intact.

The state Senate majority has echoed NYACS' opposition to such an increase because, contrary to the rhetoric anti-smoking advocates, it would do far more harm than good. The Legislature has the final say on whether the increase goes in the budget.

"The record clearly illustrates that increasing New York's cigarette excise tax is self-defeating fiscally, devastating to small business, and detrimental to public health," said NYACS President James Calvin. "Smokers don't quit smoking, they just quit coming to our stores and instead shift their purchases to tribal outlets, the Internet or bootleggers to avoid the exorbitant tax-included price."

Convenience stores in other states typically rely on responsible sales of cigarettes to adult customers for one-third or more of in-store sales. But in New York, the state-sanctioned tax evasion stampede has destroyed their ability to compete fairly for this legitimate retail traffic. As a result, licensed small businesses already lose more than $1 billion a year in gross sales of cigarettes and other products those cigarette customers used to buy. They stand to lose hundreds of millions more under this proposal.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Acting Gov. Richard Codey earlier this week signed the Smoke-Free Air Act in West Orange, which will go into effect on April 15, reported The Trentonian. He also signed another bill raising the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 19, which also goes into effect on April 15.

New Jersey becomes the 10th state to pass a smoke-free law, which requires indoor places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars, to be smoke free. The exceptions are cigar bars or lounges, tobacco retail establishments and the floors of the Atlantic City casinos.

The penalties for violating the law are fines of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense, said the report.

Codey's other bill makes New Jersey just the fourth state in the nation and the first in the Northeast to raise the age to buy tobacco, the report added. All states make it illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, but this new legislation follows only Alabama, Alaska and Utah.