A month ago, a pack of cigarettes was at least 61 cents cheaper and about a tenth of a mile further away.
Now, A-One Pizza Restaurant on Broadway is selling cigarettes — ending a half-year cigarette drought on campus, but a 61-cent increase in cigarette tax goes into effect today.
“Neither the tax increase nor the unavailability of cigarettes on campus will deter anyone from smoking,” said Stanton Byrd ’02, who describes himself as a social smoker. “For those who are addicted, a tax or a long walk won’t counteract the addictive properties of cigarettes.”
The tax, signed into law by Gov. John Rowland on Feb. 28, 2002, raises the tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes to $1.11, making the price of a pack of Marlboro Lights at some vendors over $5.
“This tax increase has two impacts,” economics professor Michael Boozer said. “For people addicted to cigarettes, there’s a pretty inelastic demand. They are the ones bearing the brunt of the tax. For those not addicted, the tax increase may deter them from smoking.”
From a social standpoint, some students cited a stigma attached to smoking which might deter students from taking up the habit, and one Yalie even declined to comment on the subject for fear that his parents would see his name associated with smoking.
“When I arrived at Yale,” Jessica Rivkin ’05 said, “I was surprised by the large number of people who smoke.”
Regardless of the number of Yalies who smoke, the new tax places an added economic burden on those addicted, increasing the price for a smoker who buys a pack a week from the Whalley Shell Food Mart to $240 a year under the new tax.
“The tax has no effect on social smokers,” Mario Penados ’04 said. “They don’t buy cigarettes — they bum them.”
Penados agreed with Boozer, admitting, “When you’re addicted, you’ll pay any price.”
Boozer also noted that since the tax is on cigarettes, and not on tobacco products in general, it is directed toward the minorities and lower-income groups who proportionally purchase more cigarettes.
Boozer cited past research in which states that raised the legal drinking age exhibited higher instances of marijuana use among teens.
“If they don’t buy cigarettes because of the expense, are they buying more illicit drugs or coffee at Starbucks — a more socially acceptable form of satisfying a need for drugs?”
Penados said he sees the potential deterrence of youth smoking through this tax as reason enough to have the tax.
“Smoking is bad for your health, so I don’t have a problem with imposing this type of tax,” Penados said.
Another Yalie sees a less altruistic and more entrepreneurial advantage to the tax.
“If cigarettes get too expensive here, I could make a lot of money bringing cartons of cigarettes into the country and selling them to students,” he said.
But there are other ways to avoid paying a fortune for smoking. Penados, for example, buys his cigarettes at a duty-free store, and “once walked all the way from Lanman-Wright to the Shell station on Whalley to avoid paying the extra dollar at Krauszer’s for cigarettes.”
Lauren Beck ’04 agreed.
“The expensive prices are definitely a consideration. When you’re just paying with cash in your wallet,” Beck said, “it’s easy to lose track, but I would walk 20 minutes for cheaper cigarettes.”
Beck added, “But then again, I like to walk.”
Until recently, however, all students had go for a walk to get their cigarettes. This increase comes on the heels of a University Properties decision last summer to not renew the lease of Krauszer’s on York Street, one of the only central places on campus to buy cigarettes.
The decision is consistent with a University Properties policy of not allowing their tenants to sell tobacco products. The property at 21 Broadway is owned by Kadir Catalbasoglu.
“Our mission is improve the quality of student life at Yale, and selling cigarettes to students is not a part of that mission,” said Andrea Pizziconi, a development associate at University Properties.
Penados also joked that walking the extra distance — about 10 miles a year for the on-campus smoker buying a pack a week from Shell — helps “counteract the negative effects of the substances you’re putting into your body [through smoking].”
The price for a pack of Marlboro Lights at A-One is $4.50 — 50 cents more than at the nearest vendor, the Shell Food Mart on Whalley Avenue. This disparity in price is enough to keep Penados from purchasing his cigarettes on Broadway, but he recognized that selling cigarettes at A-One would benefit people who don’t mind the extra charge for the location closer to campus.
Sara Loubriel ’04 is one such person.
“I don’t buy cigarettes regularly, so the convenience of 21 Broadway is very appealing,” she said.
Loubriel also cites a second advantage to purchasing cigarettes at A-One pizzeria.
“I just don’t feel safe walking at night to the Shell station,” Loubriel said.
Rivkin shares Loubriel’s concern.
“I don’t want my friends who smoke to have to go to seedy gas stations to buy cigarettes, but by selling them on or near campus, students would have one less reason to quit,” Rivkin said.
Beck said that in the long term, continual price increases might cause her to give up smoking.
“To tell the truth,” Beck said, “I wish I had never started.”