Table of Contents
Cigarette and tobacco are products that cause the death of regular users if consumed as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. According to Health Affairs (2016), the use of these products causes the death of over 540,000 people in the United States. However, an increase in taxes on cigarette, which increase the price, has shown that people, especially low-income earners in New York City, can stop smoking. With the new proposal to make it a must for people in New York to pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products, those who do not smoke may not be willing to pay the additional taxes. As such, this research investigates whether all New Yorkers should pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products.
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Cigarette and tobacco are considered to be the only legal products that can cause the death of regular users if consumed as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. According to a research study conducted by the Health Affairs (2016), the use of these products causes an estimated 6 million deaths globally and over 540,000 deaths in the United States. 10% of the total deaths come as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.
The officials from the public health in different cities in the United States try to reduce the use of these products in numerous ways from increasing the legal age of purchasing cigarette from 18 to 21 to secluding places where people are not allowed to smoke. Other ways include the elimination of smoking in movies that are rated for youths and packaging cigarette with a label that has graphic warnings of the harmful effects of smoking.
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One of the most effective ways that the cities, such as New York, have used to reduce the use of these products is increasing tax (Coady et al., 2013). This is beneficial, especially for low-income earners in many ways. For example, since they have less money, an increase in tax will mean an increase in the cost of cigarettes. Due to this, they will find it difficult to purchase cigarettes, leading to less addiction and in some cases, a complete end to smoking.
However, the addictive nature of these products means that it is usually difficult for low-income earners to stop smoking immediately in New York. Therefore, they start to purchase cigarettes on the streets that are untaxed from illegal vendors to continue smoking at a lower price. An issue arises on the fairness of taxing the non-smokers as smokers. As such, this research proposal aims to investigate whether all New Yorkers should pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products.
In the United States, almost 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers tried smoking by the time they were 18 years old, and 99% tried smoking by the time they were 26 years old (CDC, 2015). If smoking continues, it is estimated that 5.6 million Americans who are younger than 18 years old will die from smoking-related diseases (CDC, 2015). Compared to adults, young smokers are more susceptible to cigarette advertisements because they are more inclined to remember the advertisement. Some of the reasons these young people smoke include living with parents who smoke, curiosity, peer pressure from friends, and inability to break away from the addiction of nicotine. However, a raise in tax of cigarette that eventually increases its price is one way that can prevent young people from accessing them.
According to Health Affairs (2016), the Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel increased the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents. A few months later, the mayor made an announcement that smoking, especially among the students in high school had reduced to its lowest: a 10.7% reduction. The increase in tax does not only aim to make it hard for students to access cigarette, but it also targets low-income earners. According to a study conducted by Farrelly, Nonnemaker, & Watson (2012), high cigarette taxes are considered effective in reducing smoking in New York. The study showed that low-income earners found it difficult to purchase cigarettes because they could not afford the high taxes imposed on them. Due to this, some of them gave up smoking while others reduced the number of cigarettes they were smoking in a day.
In a Huffington Post article, Feinberg (2012) agrees with this study stating that the city, which is considered to have the highest tax on the pack of a cigarette of $4.35, has helped reduce smoking below the national rate. Without the high taxes, the author claims that low-income earners will smoke more, spend more, suffer more, and die from smoking. However, while the number of people who smoke in New York has reduced among low-income earners, some of them, especially those who are addicted to nicotine have found cheap cigarettes that are not heavily taxed from illegal street vendors.
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According to Coady et al. (2013), low-income earners, specifically the Hispanic and Black smokers reported that they were more likely to purchase cigarettes from illegal vendors in the streets than the Whites. There are several reasons they gave. The first reason was their inability to break away from their addiction to nicotine. Due to this, they had to find an illegal vendor to sell them cigarettes at a lower price. The second reason was the 2008 increase in tax on cigarettes. This increase made them incapable of affording the high price of cigarettes. As a result, the illegal vendors made it easier for them to purchase cheap cigarettes.
Therefore, the above literature review reveals one important thing: the increase in tax seems to only prevent some of the low-income earners from purchasing cigarettes because others are able to get them at a cheaper price from illegal street vendors.
Statement of Goals
In New York, the smokers pay a tax of $4.35 on every cigarette pack they purchase (Feinberg, 2012). To the high-income earners, it is not a problem as compared to low-income earners because they can afford to pay the tax. However, with low-income earners purchasing cigarette packs on the street that are not taxed, the government is not getting enough money to cater for health problems related to smoking, such as cancer. As a result, the debate on whether non-smokers should also be taxed materializes.
Therefore, the goal of this research is to investigate whether all New Yorkers should pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products. This involves conducting qualitative and quantitative research on the effect of making it mandatory for all New Yorkers to pay additional taxes on cigarettes.
The study will aim to answer the following questions that reveal the effect of making it mandatory for all New Yorkers to pay additional tax on cigarettes:
- Is the current number of people dying from cigarette smoking-related diseases reducing or increasing in New York?
- Is the current increase in tax on cigarettes reducing or increasing smoking in people living in New York?
- Are the current campaigns in New York to reduce cigarette smoking, such as increasing the age of the smoking or preventing youths from watching films that show smoking reducing smoking?
- Are there ways for low-income earners in New York to get access to cigarettes that are not taxed without the knowledge of the authority?
- Are there measures that have been put in place in New York to prevent low-income earners from getting access to cigarettes that are not taxed?
- Are non-smokers willing to pay taxes on cigarettes to help New York to raise funds to cater to smoking-related diseases?
The following hypotheses inform the direction of the research:
- The increase in tax on cigarettes in New York will augment their prices, thereby, reducing the number people who can afford them, especially those from low-income families.
- The low-income earners in New York have a higher chance of purchasing cigarettes from illegal street vendors than high-income earners because of the reduced price.
- The people who do not smoke cigarettes will have a lower chance of accepting New York’s demand for an increase in taxes on cigarette and tobacco products.
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Methods and Materials
The research will target two groups of people in New York that include students and adults. The sample size of the participants will be 40. Out of the 40 sample size of the population, 20 will consist of students of ages between 12 and 25 while the rest will consist of adults of ages between 26 and 50.
On the one hand, the students were chosen because they represent a group of people who are beginning to smoke in their teenage years. On the other hand, adults were chosen because they represent a group of people who are already addicted to smoking.
Questionnaires will be used in an interview to collect both qualitative and quantitative responses of participants. The quantitative information will be collected from past studies and interviews.
The quantitative information collected will focus on questions, such as: How many people are still smoking cigarettes? How many people have died from cigarette smoking-related diseases in New York? Has the number of people who have died from cigarette smoking-related diseases reduced in New York? In the interviews, the quantitative information collected will focus on questions, such as: How many people have you lost from cigarette smoking? How many people do you know are willing to pay additional taxes on cigarettes? How many people with low-income purchase cigarettes illegally from street vendors?
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The qualitative information will be collected mainly from interviews either by mail, phone, or in person. The qualitative information collected will focus on questions, such as: Do you think the current increase in tax on cigarettes is reducing or increasing smoking in people living in New York? Do you think the current campaigns in New York are successful in reducing cigarette smoking? Do you think there are ways for low-income earners in New York to get access to cigarettes that are not taxed without the knowledge of the authority? Do you think the adequate measures have been put in place in New York to prevent low-income earners from getting access to cigarettes that are not taxed? Do you think non-smokers will be willing to pay taxes on cigarettes to help New York to raise funds to cater for smoking-related diseases?
Close and open-ended questions will be used in the questionnaire. The close-ended questions will ensure that quantitative information is collected while open-ended questions will ensure gathering of qualitative information.
The research will analyze whether there is a need for New York to make it mandatory for all people to pay additional taxes on cigarettes. The results collected from the questionnaire during the interviews and from the past studies will be analyzed through the use of tables, bar graphs, and pie charts. The bar graph will be used to analyze the quantitative information, such as the number of people who are willing to pay additional taxes on cigarettes. This will show whether the people in New York will be willing to pay the additional taxes.
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The pie chart will be used to analyze the quantitative information, such as the number in percentage of people with low-income from the past and present years purchase of cigarettes from illegal street vendors. This will show the change in the percentage of the number of people who purchase cigarette from illegal street vendors that are not taxed. The table will be used to collect qualitative information, such as the different ways low-income earners use to purchase untaxed cigarettes from street vendors. This will show how the low-income are able to evade cigarettes that are taxed.
Thus, the above analysis will provide adequate information to New York on whether the additional taxes on cigarettes should be made mandatory for everyone.
Discussions and Recommendations
In the literature review, there are some preliminary findings that can be used to provide insight into the decision New York should take.
In the literature review, it was found out that the idea behind increasing tax on cigarettes was to discourage people from smoking. However, some of the people who were seen to smoke did not pay tax on cigarettes because they were able to get them illegally from street vendors. These people were seen to be from the Black and Hispanic groups. Due to this, the non-smoking people may be unwilling to pay taxes on cigarettes.
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They may be unwilling for a number of reasons. First, they are less likely to be affected by the smoke. As a result, they may see no reason to part with their money to pay taxes on cigarettes to cater for diseases related to smoking, such as cancer. Second, the existing taxes on cigarettes are already high for people who smoke. An additional increase will further reduce their disposable income.
From the above discussion, it seems that the recommendations should be against New York making it mandatory for everyone to pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products. Some of the recommendations are as follows:
- Those who smoke cigarettes should be the only ones paying the additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products. The ones who do not smoke are not harming their health, and therefore, should not be made to pay the additional taxes to cater for diseases they do not have.
- Instead of making it mandatory for everyone to pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products, New York should find ways of preventing low-income earners from purchasing untaxed cigarettes from street vendors. One way may be conducting random searches in the streets to find those vendors that are selling untaxed cigarettes.
Interpretations and Implications of the Study
There are several interpretations that can be made from the research. First, if the research reveals that an increase in tax will reduce smoking, then, it can be interpreted that the non-smokers may be willing to pay the additional taxes. However, if this is not the case, then, it can be interpreted that the non-smokers may not be willing.
Second, if the research reveals that conducting random searches in the streets on vendors selling cigarettes may reduce the number of untaxed cigarettes, then, it can be interpreted that not everyone will need to pay the additional taxes.
There are several implications that can be made from the research. First, making it a must for everyone to pay additional taxes will have the implication of reducing the number of smokers, especially those with low-income in New York. As a result, the city will have few people to offer treatment from smoking-related diseases.
Second, making it mandatory for all people in New York to pay additional taxes will have the implication of increasing the funds needed to purchase equipment to diagnose diseases that are related to smoking.
The research is expected to answer the most important question, which is: “Should all people from New York pay additional taxes on cigarette and tobacco products?” While the research has not yet been carried out, some preliminary conclusions can be made from the literature review. It can be seen that an increase in tax discourages low-income earners from purchasing cigarettes because they cannot afford them. However, some of them have found other ways of purchasing cheap cigarettes. For example, some purchase from street vendors who are selling untaxed cigarettes. These cigarettes are imported from countries or other cities in the United States with low taxes. As such, the research is expected to get a result that strongly recommends that only those who smoke should be the ones to pay additional taxes.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015). Youth and tobacco use. CDC.
- Coady, M., Chan, C., Sacks, R., Mbamalu, I., & Kansagra, S. (2013). The impact of cigarette excise tax increases on purchasing behaviors among New York City smokers. American Journal of Public Health, 103(6), e54–e60.
- Farrelly, M., Nonnemaker, J., & Watson, K. (2012). The consequences of high cigarette excise taxes for low-income smokers. Plos ONE, 7(9), e43838.
- Feinberg, S. (2012). Cigarette price increases don’t burden low-income New Yorkers, smoking does. Huffington Post.
- Health Affairs (2016). Health policy brief. Tobacco taxes. To curb smoking and raise revenue, governments impose taxes on tobacco. Health Affairs.