Health Groups Ask for Increased Tobacco Tax

December 15, 2020

Public health groups seek first cigarette tax increase in New York in 10 years

Organizations warn New York cannot afford to cut public health programs during a pandemic

ALBANY, NY  — While New York continues to fight the pandemic, public health groups, civic organizations and hospitals joined forces in urging Governor Cuomo to increase the tax on tobacco products and to use the revenue to provide much needed support for public health programs, including programs to help smokers quit.  In a letter sent to Gov. Cuomo, the groups called for an increase in the cigarette tax of at least $1 per pack in the FY 2021- 2022 Executive Budget, and to ensure the budget provides a parallel tax on all other tobacco products including e-cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco products.

Raising tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use and prevent kids from beginning a deadly addiction. Despite an estimated 23,000 smoking-related deaths in New York each year, the state has not increased most tobacco taxes in over a decade. With a cigarette tax increase of $1 per pack, an estimated 61,800 adult smokers would quit. 

Tobacco use remains a leading risk factor for conditions that lead to heart disease, cancer, lung disease, kidney disease and myriad of other health complications.  Smoking or having a history of smoking increases a person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

“The real question with a tobacco tax is ‘why wouldn’t the governor include it in his budget?’” asked Dr. Disha Mookherjee, cardiologist at Saratoga Hospital and member of the Capital Region Board of Advisors of the American Heart Association. “If New York raises the tax on tobacco by just $1 per pack, the projected number of youth under 18 who will be kept from becoming adult smokers is 29,500. We know that tobacco use can lead to heart disease or stroke, so this tax could mean that nearly 30,000 people could avoid the No. 1 and No. 5 killers in our nation.”

“Increasing the tax on tobacco products is a no-brainer,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Senior New York Government Relations Director Julie Hart.  “A tobacco tax increase is a win-win-win. It will incentive smokers to quit, reduce healthcare costs and generate revenue the state desperately needs for public health programs.”   

“Increasing New York State tax on tobacco products will improve the health of our citizens. This approach can be especially effective if we reinvest a portion of those funds back into the New York State tobacco prevention and education programs that have produced an outstanding track record in driving usage rates down,” said Dr. Andrew Hyland, Chair, Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"There has never been a better time to raise the price of tobacco products in New York State.   Being a current or former smoker increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19, so encouraging people to quit and preventing kids from starting has multiple, overlapping benefits at this moment," said Michael Seilback, National Assistant Vice President for State Public Policy for the American Lung Association. "This is an opportunity to fund vital public health programs, combat the pandemic, and reduce tobacco-related deaths and illnesses in New York State for the long term."

“Increasing the tobacco tax is a smart and sensible step,” said Sarah Ravenhall, MHA, CHES, Executive Director of the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO.) Not only will it provide critical dollars needed to invest into public health, it will also improve the health and well-being of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. By both measures it’s sound public health policy that our state leaders would be wise to adopt, and we urge them to do so."

The tobacco industry has a long history of profiting on the backs of people with lower incomes and communities of color by targeting them with discounts and promotions for its deadly and addictive products. Tobacco tax increases of at least $1 per pack are proven to reduce smoking, save lives and prevent tobacco-related disease especially among youth and people with lower incomes. When tobacco tax increases help people who use tobacco quit, it improves their health and saves them money.

The organizations pledge to work with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to help accomplish the tax increase.



The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit

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Albany, NY