In 2012, the CDC estimated that some 18.1 percent, or 42.1 million, of American adults were smokers. Of that 42.1 million, roughly 2.3 percent, or 981,000, live in New York City. The biggest difference between the experience of NYC smokers and those in the rest of the U.S. is that a pack of cigarettes up here costs between $12 and $14. But that’s only if the process from manufacturing to consuming has been totally legal.
Today, the Huffington Post shared a detailed infographic analyzing NYC’s multi-million dollar cigarette black market and as expected, it’s a real eye-opener. The study found that 57 percent of cigarettes in New York state are smuggled in. The only other state that comes close to that number is Arizona. Not surprisingly, most of the illegal cigarettes in NYC are coming from the South where, as I can tell you, smoking seems like a God-given right and a pack of cigarettes is ridiculously cheap. Who’s NYC’s #1
enabler provider? Virginia, where nearly 50 percent of all cigarettes are smuggled out. According to the study, 44.7 percent of illegal cigarettes in NYC come from the Commonwealth. Another 30.9 percent come from states where they don’t even put stamps on packs like the Carolinas and North Dakota. Third, fourth and fifth place belong to other parts of New York State, New Jersey and Georgia. In most of those states, taxes on cigarettes are less than $3 compared to the $5.85 state/city tax in NYC.
The consequences? The city is missing out on $525 million dollars in tax revenue and the access to (relatively) cheap cigarettes has made it much easier for people under 18 to smoke (at least until the 21+ age limit for buying cigarettes goes into effect later this month).
But there is a bright side: If NYC were to seriously curb the importation of illegal cigarettes, the number of young smokers could be cut by nearly 10 percent, a huge effect that is unique to our city. The same decision would only cut the number of young smokers by about 3 percent in cities like Boston and Washington D.C. On top of that, we could keep pushing our already record-breaking life expectancy up.
For a more detailed look at the city’s black market, head over to Huffpost or check out the full infographic below: