By Della Hasselle
MANHATTAN — New York now has the highest cigarette taxes in the country after the Legislature passed a bill Monday raising taxes on tobacco in the state.
The new law adds another $1.60 in state taxes to every cigarette pack sold starting July 1, escalating the average price to $9.20 in the state, and nearly $11 a pack in New York City, the New York Times reported.
The tobacco tax hike came as part of an emergency spending plan to keep New York running for another week, as pressure is mounted on lawmakers to reach a budget agreement by Monday, or risk government shutdown.
Cigarettes aren’t the only tobacco product that’s rising in price. Tax on smokeless tobacco will more than double, to $2 an ounce from 96 cents an ounce. Cigars and dips will also rise to 75 percent from 46 percent, the Times reported.
Moreover, the legislation approves collecting taxes from cigarettes sold on Indian reservations, an attempt that was last met with violence in the early 1990s, according to the Times.
The increase will provide $440 million in revenue for health care programs such as AIDS drugs subsidies, programs to help people quit smoking, and cancer research in Buffalo, the Times reported.
Some officials hope the revenue will help plug the state’s $9.2 billion deficit, and health advocates approve the tax.
“They are going to see well over 100,000 adults who will quit smoking because of this,” the American Heart Association’s Julie Hart told the Daily News.
Republicans, however, are criticizing Democrat officials for being too quick to tax. All 29 Republicans present in Assembly voted no for the hike, causing a narrow pass of 32-29.
“This is just a prelude of what you are going to see in the big ugly,” Deputy Minority Leader Thomas Libous told the Daily News. “You are going to see spending and taxes, everything you shouldn’t do in this economy.”