ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The Governor’s proposal to increase the cigarette tax and ban flavored tobacco is receiving some opposition. Some are saying the proposal would disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities, who smoke menthol cigarettes at higher rates according to a study by the CDC.
But what exactly is menthol? Trevor Summerfield with the American Lung Association said it’s essentially a pharmaceutical soothing ingredient. “And it’s also causing – when you’re talking about young people and menthol in particular, and menthol in the African-American communities – it’s masking the harshness of the tobacco to a point where people are inhaling, much more severely and becoming deeper smokers. They’re actually becoming more addicted because of the way they’re smoking because they’re trying to get more of that nicotine,” he said.
The proposal would also impose a one-dollar tax increase on cigarettes totaling $5.35 for a pack. Summerfield said his Association has found that when the prices go up, sales go down. “It’s really a common sense-acle approach to this problem, we know these are two policy solutions – although controversial to some – have been proven to work, and our lung health, depends on it, the future of our kids depend on it,” said Summerfield.
But Kent Sopris with the NYS Association of Convenience Stores said the proposal will not have any real public health impact, and will only hurt New York businesses, “This tax alone would drive consumers to Pennsylvania which is just a few minutes away. There are right now, 3200 tobacco retailers along the border of New York State from the Southern Tier to the North Country… who would sell these products much cheaper than they can get right now in New York.”
Sopris also said banning flavored tobacco doesn’t mean sales will stop. He points to flavor-filled vapes as an example, “When advocates and others say that there’s a 20 to 25% smoking rate, what they’re talking about is these vapes, and they’ve been illegal so the problem is there. The solution is not prohibition. There has to be another way.”