Tax hike drives some to Nassau – QNS.com

Tax hike drives some to Nassau

Amanda DeVitto has been smoking for 13 years, and the latest cigarette tax hike will not make her stop her habit.
“I’m not going to quit,” the 26-year-old said. “I’m not ready yet.”
Instead, she will make a trip from her neighborhood of Howard Beach to Nassau County to avoid paying city taxes and save nearly $2 per pack.
On June 3, the State of New York issued a $1.25 tax increase on cigarettes, raising the state tax to $2.75, a move expected to generate $265 million in new state revenues and cut the number of New York City smokers by 140,000. The price for a pack of cigarettes is now at least $8 in the city. The Health Department estimates it will cost $3,000 a year for pack-a-day smokers.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also declared June 3 “NYC Quits Day,” which involved many locations across the city distributing nicotine replacement therapy.
About one in six Queens’ residents smoke, according to a 2006 Department of Health survey.
Although tax increases have been effective in the past - the city said 21 percent of adult smokers and 52 percent of NYC public high school students ceased their habits in response to the 2002 increase - dedicated smokers like DeVitto will find alternatives to paying the higher price.
Less committed smokers, like Jason Shumsky, 33, could satisfy expectations if he gives up smoking. “It’s definitely something I think about more and more,” he said. “It’s more about the price than my health though.” He added that he just moved back to New York from Virginia, where he said he was paying about $3.25 a pack, making this latest increase sting even more.
One alternative becoming more and more appealing to Queens residents lies in its neighbor, Nassau County. In Nassau County, smokers do not have to pay the $1.50 city tax. However, this latest state tax hike runs the risk of disrupting Queens’ businesses that get much of their revenue from cigarette sales.
“People are either going to quit or buy on the Internet because it’s much cheaper,” said Mike Gohil, who owns Te-amo Convenience in Bayside. “Since the last increase, we went down so much.” He also noted that the store is near the Nassau border, where many of his potential customers may now go to buy their smokes.
A little more than two miles from his shop, Jonathan Osmun, who owns North Shore Tobacco, was surprised with the volume of cigarettes he’s been selling.
“What this price increase has done is drive people over the border,” he said. “People have been doing that since the last increase, but I just can’t believe the volume crossing the border. Bloomberg did us a favor,” he said, referring to the increase in city tax on cigarettes in 2002.
Meanwhile, Osmun is skeptical of the city and state’s justification of the tax relating to smokers’ health. “It’s not really about your health, it’s about how much New York State can put into their coffers,” he said. “The bottom line is it hasn’t forced anyone to quit.”

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