A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Buffalo, NY. He was commenting on the paying $150 for a scalped “cheap seat” ticket to a Buffalo Bills game and what he had to shell out for a small bottle of liquor, $40. The stunner was the statement that a carton of cigarettes, with state, local and federal taxes, was $207.06.
If you travel you may have known for years that vice is not cheap in New York state and even more expensive in New York City. In the early 80s, when I still smoked, a pack of cigarettes in a NY machine was $2. Well above what the same would run in most other states.
When I began smoking in the 50s I can remember buying cigarettes from machines for a quarter and inside the cellophane wrapper would be three pennies making the cost .22 cents. In the Navy at that time we could buy cigarettes for .10 a pack when outside the continental limits of the US. Obviously government hadn’t discovered yet the potential revenues that sin taxes can produce.
I did just a smidgen of research this morning about tobacco taxes and to no one’s surprise NY is at the top of the list. Whatever the state tax, there are also local taxes in some places and the federal government taxes all cigarette packs at $1.01. Here are some samples of state taxes per pack of cigarettes:
- Missouri, .17 cents
- Virginia, .30
- North Carolina, .45
- Ohio, $1.25
- Hawaii, $3.20
- New York, $4.35 with NYC exceeding the $5 mark
My brother was recently in Maine and New Hampshire and reported per pack prices ranging between $7 to $9. I still can’t figure how a carton could exceed $200 but will make more inquires. Regardless, tobacco consumption is not a cheap habit these days. I gave up the devil weed in 1982 and can’t imagine how much money I’ve been able to waste on other things. But at least I can look around and see some of those things. The money I did and would have spent on cigarettes would have disappeared like a puff of smoke.
UPDATE: I checked back with the person who told me about the $20 a pack cigarettes in NY and he had based his calculations on believing a carton contained twenty packs. It only has ten packs making the per pack cost slightly over $10. That doesn’t change the reality that smoking and tobacco use is extremely expensive. While having this conversation another person related that between him and his wife they spent $24 a day on cigarettes. You could just about double that if they lived in NY. Doing the math this couple is paying out more for tobacco a month than I did on a house and car payment combined in the 1980s.