A contentious discussion about income and the selling of cigarettes on the black market is being sparked by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announced plan to outlaw the sale of menthol cigarettes and charge smokers with an additional dollar-per-pack tax.
In her $227 billion budget plan earlier this month, the governor suggested legislative reforms banning flavored cigarettes and raising fees on cigarette purchases to reduce tobacco use among young New Yorkers and slash smoking rates in minority areas.
Health officials and anti-smoking organizations have praised the initiative.
According to a statement by interim state health commissioner Dr. James McDonald, “the removal of flavored tobacco products will safeguard our young people and those who have become hooked at dangerously high rates due to the tobacco industry’s marketing activities.”
According to convenience shop owners and others, the ban on flavored tobacco products would be an unenforceable rule that may drain the state’s resources and strengthen the already booming illegal market.
President of the New York Association of Convenience Stores Kent Sopris declared, “Prohibition doesn’t work, period. The governor recommends that sales of flavored tobacco products be moved from licensed retail locations and placed on the black market or to other states.”
New York is already the first in the country regarding illegal cigarette sales. According to a study by the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, in 2020, almost 53% of the cigarettes smoked in the Empire State were bought illegally.
Sopris and others used Massachusetts to illustrate how smoking bans don’t work to reduce the number of people who smoke and instead result in lost income for businesses and state tax collection.
The sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, was outlawed in the Bay State as the first state in 2020.