What a difference $1.25 makes

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   With New York’s newly bumped-up cigarette tax, it seems would-be non-smokers can’t get enough of the Smokers’ Quitline (800-NY-QUITS), according to the state Health Department. Calls to the hotline during the week of June 2—when New York raised its cigarette tax $1.25, to $2.75 per pack—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.  

   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.

   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 for a Tobacco Free New York has estimated that the tax hike will reduce that number by 140,000.

   “Most smokers want to quit,” state Health Commissioner Richard Daines, a physician, said in a statement. “The cigarette tax is doing exactly what we intended, giving smokers another powerful reason to try to quit. We’re thrilled with these results.”

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  1. It’s all about the money — the tax money. But a new black market is flourishing. And the Indians, the internet, and many out-of-state outlets are taking the cash from NY because of the state’s standard stupidity.

    Any claims that this was about “health” are lies. It’s just about the money.