Â Â With New Yorkâ€™s newly bumped-up cigarette tax, it seems would-be non-smokers canâ€™t get enough of the Smokersâ€™ Quitline (800-NY-QUITS), according to the state Health Department. Calls to the hotline during the week of June 2â€”when New York raised its cigarette tax $1.25, to $2.75 per packâ€”were more than four times what they were a year before. Agency officials say the high volume of calls is a result of the higher tax.Â Â
Â Â During the week of June 2-8, the hotline received more than 9,750 calls. Most callers to the Quitline at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo mentioned the higher cigarette tax as their motivation to quit. Between June 4 and 10, 2007, there were just under 2,300 calls. Requests for nicotine-replacement therapy starter kits experienced a similar spike. Smokers asked for some 7,900 started kits the first week of June, compared with 1,722 that week in 2007.
Â Â Although higher cigarette taxes mean more money for the state coffers (the main reason lawmakers and Gov. David Paterson agreed to increase them was to help plug a $5 billion budget gap), Health Department officials see them as a boon for the non-smoking cause. New York has 2.8 million adult smokers. The Center forÂ a Tobacco Free New York has estimated that the tax hike will reduce that number by 140,000.
Â Â â€œMost smokers want to quit,â€ state Health Commissioner Richard Daines, a physician, said in a statement. â€œThe cigarette tax is doing exactly what we intended, giving smokers another powerful reason to try to quit. Weâ€™re thrilled with these results.â€