PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 30, 2008
Contact Audrey Silk, NYC C.L.A.S.H., (917) 888-9317
Email: nycclash@nycclash.com
 
 

PUNITIVE CIGARETTE TAX HIKE NOT ACCEPTABLE
New York State Smokers Look to Senator Bruno
to Keep His "No Cig Tax" Promise


In the last year, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has stated on more than one occasion that he will not entertain the idea of raising the tax on cigarettes again as did other key legislators (1, 2, 3).

Nonetheless, anti-smoking special interest groups have been relentless in hounding the state legislature to include a $1.50 per pack increase in this year's state budget. These groups misuse words like "encourage," "persuade," "motivate," and "incentive" to describe the effect this tax will have on individual behavior and the alleged savings to society.  However, their offensive paternalistic pursuit of a smoker-free society is no more than legalized theft -- of an individual's hard-earned dollar and free will.  Is it really "motivation" if they're putting a gun to someone's head?  ("I swear Your Honor, I wasn't robbing him.  I was motivating/encouraging/persuading him to give me his money for his own good!?)

Cigarettes are a legal product.  Considering the abundance of anti-smoking ads it's impossible to conclude that adults are not making an informed choice. Intolerants should not have the power to shove their idea of the "right" choice down free adults' throats. And it's a contradiction by the anti-smoking groups to claim it's an "addiction" ("worse than heroin") and not a choice but insist that an increase in price is some magic bullet that will cause a person to suddenly stop.  Furthermore, a law already exists that makes selling cigarettes to minors illegal. Taxation "for the children" is no more than a shameless tactic to silence dissent.

NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.), a grassroots organization dedicated to advancing, promoting and protecting the interests of adults who choose to smoke cigarettes, asks Majority Leader Bruno to keep his promise not to raise this tax and for the rest of the legislators to reject this theft -- driven by emotion, ideology, and omission of facts and information provided below -- from 25% of the population just because they're unpopular (a creation by the very groups that seek to take advantage of their own doing) and no one is willing to let them have a voice -- as if an inanimate object (cigarette) pays this tax, not people.
 

FACTS AND INFORMATION THE ANTI-SMOKERS DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW:
 

  • Expected Revenue Unrealized
Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) - Declines in cigarette consumption due to higher prices results in the annual payments by the participating manufacturers in the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) to the states to be reduced proportionately (4).  In other words, no long-term gains. Make money here, lose money there.

Tax Hike on Cigs = Less Revenue - "Cigarettes have become every pol's favorite tax target, and last year Trenton raised its cigarette tax to $2.575 per pack -- the highest state levy in the nation. Governor Jon Corzine forecast that the tax increase of 17.5 cents a pack would fetch $30 million in revenue to help balance the state's $1 billion deficit. Not quite. A new analysis by the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey finds that the state collected $23 million /less/ revenue from tobacco taxes in Fiscal 2007 than it did the year before... [Reduction in smoking] isn't the main explanation for the revenue plunge. New Jersey residents are still lighting up; they're simply buying more Camels and Marlboros outside their state." (5)
 

  • Taxes = Avoidance/Lying. No Proof of Cessation
A) On October 19, 2007, the NYC Independent Budget Office released the following as reported on a NY Times blog:  "The higher taxes... increase New Yorkers’ incentives to buy cigarettes from lower-tax areas, including Indian reservations, and from Web sites that claim to sell “tax-free” cigarettes... In February of this year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg again proposed raising the city’s cigarette tax. 'While the mayor’s proposal to again increase the local cigarette tax assumes that higher prices will further discourage New Yorkers from smoking, it may also encourage more city smokers to seek under-taxed cigarettes,' the report concludes." (6)

B) From that same city IBO report (7) is this admittance that questions whether these tax increases really reduce the smoking rate:  "Recent research found evidence that a significant amount of cigarette consumption goes underreported in surveys similar to the ones used in this report.5"

"5M.Stehr, in 2005 Journal of Health Economics (Volume24, pp 277–297), found that because of under-reporting, the cigarette consumption data in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) overstates the decline in smoking."

C) And in a supplement to that report, is this: "[I]n many cases buyers travel to the low-tax dealer and load up a car or truck with packs for resale in New York (bootleggers) or for personal consumption." (8)

While reservations might account for a large portion of cigarette sales and some purchases from low-tax states are made through the internet, 800 numbers, or mail order, all the anti-shipping laws (at risk of being overturned due to a recent SCOTUS decision (9)) cannot stem avenues that amount to supply meeting demand.
 

  • Cost to Society?
If alleged Cost to Society is the scale on which taxation is weighed then it's adult drivers and those proven to be generally irresponsible who should be the number one target.

Unintentional injury is responsible for more years of potential life lost before the age of 65 than cancer and heart disease combined (National Center for Health Statistics 2004). Motor vehicle crashes are the single largest cause of unintentional injury for ages 1 to 65, accounting for a total of 42,643 deaths in 2003 when motor vehicle fatalities killed 14.66 out of every 100,000 Americans (NHTSA 2005). Societal costs associated with these crashes include lost wages, medical expenses, insurance claims, production delays, property damage, and indirect costs (National Safety Council 1995). In 2000, the total economic cost of traffic fatalities was approximately $230.6 billion, including $61 billion in lost productivity, $59 billion in property damage, and $32.6 billion in travel delays. (10)

But wait, the CDC, citing a 2005 study (11, 12), says smoking costs the U.S. $167 billion including lost productivity and medical expenditures. That's almost $64 billion less than traffic fatalities.

Another study published in October 2007 found that obesity and smoking costs the U.S. $100 billion a year (13).  Why the $67 billion dollar disparity with the CDC's cited figure?  Further, this study includes obesity in its figure so the cost of smoking is even less than $100 billion according to the researchers.

Yet no one questions these numbers that are seemingly pulled from hats according to the need of the moment.
 

  • Research Finds Smokers DO NOT Cost Society Money or Cost Less Than "Healthy" People!
Past studies have found that smokers, were we to accept that they die earlier, actually save society money by doing so in terms of social security, pensions, and lack of need for long-term health care.

In 1995, economist Kip Viscusi found that smokers save society 32 cents per pack. (14)

In 1998, following the MSA, the Congressional Research Service determined, "In general, smokers do not appear to currently impose net financial costs on the rest of society. The tobacco settlement will increase the transfer of resources from the smoking to the nonsmoking public." (15)

In 2004, Professor Gabriel Picone at the University of South Florida, Center for Economic Policy Analysis, and his colleagues report the net costs to society of cigarette smoking have been grossly overestimated. (16)

One more very recent study adds to the evidence:

As reported by the Associated Press, in February 2008 "in a paper published online[...] in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers...  Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on. The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000." (17)
 

Considering the lack of conclusive hard proof that cigarette taxes can raise revenue while reducing the number of cigarette smokers (a contradiction within itself) and evidence that contradicts the sanctimonious groups that want to vilify, punish, and control smokers at every turn, Audrey Silk, founder of C.L.A.S.H., points to last year's budget and concludes, "Want to cut wasteful spending in the budget?  Stop funding ineffective anti-smoking programs to the tune of $95 million dollars!"

"Crazier still," Silk contends, "are lawmakers that complain that black market cigarette sales fund terrorists and then go ahead and create the ideal conditions themselves for that market to grow."

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Footnotes:

(1) Frederic U. Dicker, "Wheezer Pleaser: Cig-Tax Hike Nixed," NY Post, March 7, 2008. "Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has vowed to reject a call to double the state's $1.50-a- pack cigarette tax. "I'm not supportive of it," Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said..."

(2) Reid J. Epstein, "Lawmakers Mull $2 Cigarette Tax," Newsday, April 3, 2007:  "Spokesmen for Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick) said they have no plans to be part of a cigarette tax increase."

(3) Frank Eltman, "Nassau County Wants $2-Per-Pack Cig Tax," Associated Press, April 3, 2007: "The chairman of the state Senate's health committee on Tuesday said there are better ways to combat teenage smoking than raising the tax on cigarettes by $2 a pack."

(4) C. Stephen Redhead, "RL30058: Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (1998): Overview, Implementation by States, and Congressional Issues," CRS Report for Congress, November 5, 1999.
http://www.ncseonline.org/nle/crsreports/agriculture/ag-55.cfm#Back2

(5) "Dope Smokers," Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2007.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118912565152120132.html

(6) Sewell Chan, "Many Smokers Avoid Cigarette Tax, Report Finds," NY Times, October 19, 2007.
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/19/many-smokers-avoid-cigarette-tax-report-finds/

(7) New York City Independent Budget Office, "Higher Cigarette Tax Has Led to More Tax Revenue, More Tax Evasion," Inside the Budget, Number 152, October 19, 2007.
http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/newsfax/insidethebudget152.pdf

(8) New York City Independent Budget Office, "Cigarette Taxes and the Law," Supplement to Inside the Budget, Number 152, October 19, 2007.
http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/newsfax/ITB152S2.pdf

(9) Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, No. 06-457, Decision, Supreme Court of the United States, February 2, 2008.
http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/06-457.pdf

(10) Sheila G. Klaeur, et al, "An Assessment of the Relative Risk of Engaging in Potentially Unsafe Driving Behaviors," AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, December 2006.
http://www.aaafoundation.org/pdf/RiskyDrivingReport.pdf

(11) Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, "Smoking and Tobacco Use," Fast Facts, Tobacco-Related Costs and Expenditure in the United States, April 27, 2007
http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/FastFacts.htm

(12) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Annual Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 1997–2001." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [serial online]. 2005;54 [cited 2006 Sep 23].  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5425a1.htm

(13) Avram Goldstein, "Obesity, Smoking Add $100 Billion to U.S. Health Cost," Bloomberg News, October 2, 2007
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=auKPjdGB8wNs&refer=us

(14) W. Kip Viscusi, "Cigarette Taxation and the Social Consequences of Smoking," in James Poterba, ed., Tax Policy and the Economy, National Bureau of Economic Research, Vol. 9 (1995) pp. 51-101
http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/faculty-personal-sites/w-kip-viscusi-home-page/
w-kip-viscusi-bibliography/download.aspx?id=1058

(15) Jane G. Gravelle, "The Proposed Tobacco Settlement: Who Pays for the Health Costs of Smoking?," Congressional Research Service Library of Congress, Number 97-1053 E, April 30, 1998
http://www.forces.org/evidence/files/crs_97-1053.htm

(16) Gabriel Picone, et al, "The Price of Smoking," MIT Press, December 2004
http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=10298

(17) Associated Press, "[Smokers] Cheaper to Treat," February 5, 2008
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-02-05-obese-cost_N.htm

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