Smoking will become an even more expensive habit for Connecticut residents next month.
The state budget — which became law this past weekend — has increased the tax on cigarettes from $2 to $3 per pack. The measure is part of an effort to reduce the state’s roughly $8 billion deficit over the next two years. But while some fear the increase will have a disproportionate effect on Connecticut’s poor, some Yalies find the idea of the tax almost comical.
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“I think that the Connecticut government is kidding itself if it thinks a $1 tax hike will curb smoking in any way,” Alexander Shaheen ’13 said.
In recent years, the state has raised the tax several times. In 2002, it went to $1.11 from 49 cents; in 2003, to $1.51 from $1.11. The most recent increase, to $2 from $1.51, was passed July of 2007.
The current tax, legislators say, will help balance the state’s budget with additional expected revenue. According to the Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis, the new tax will result in a revenue gain of $99.3 million in fiscal year 2010 and $117.6 million in fiscal year 2011. The strategy also includes a one-off “floor tax” on all unsold inventories of tobacco products come Sept. 30, which the Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates to bring in an additional $8.8 million in revenue.
But some local business owners said they fear the tax might stunt their sales numbers. Bill Raffaele, tobacco specialist at the Owl Shop in New Haven, said he was “almost certain” that cigarette sales would fall after the tax goes into effect.
“It’s horrible,” he said. “Absolutely horrible. They’re singling out one product.”
Opponents argue that the tax will be especially burdensome to the poor, who make up a large number of Connecticut smokers. The state has yet to announce whether the revenue generated from the new tax will be used to fund anti-smoking campaigns or health-related programs.
For many Yale students, however, the $1 increase will be a negligible change. Of the four students interviewed, who all said they smoked, only one said the tax would cause a change in habit.
“I’m accustomed to paying $10 for a pack of cigarettes,” said Benjamin Singleton ’13, a student from New York City. “Still, this new effort from the government to curb smoking will probably cause me to at least try to cut down.”
None of the students interviewed concluded that the new tax will cause a significant financial burden.
The new cigarette tax is slated to go into effect Oct. 1.
Natalie Papillion contributed reporting.