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Your Take: Poor Smokers Spend 25% Of Income on Cigarettes

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Here’s a remarkable statistic – low-income smokers in NY spend 25% of their income on cigarettes. Those earning less than $30,000 a year account for 39% of the state and city taxes on cigarettes. Those with incomes over $60,000 spend about 2% of their salary on cigarettes. The article itself was meant to discuss the regressive nature of consumption taxes like the ones on cigarettes, where a pack can cost around $12. $12 is nearly twice the national minimum wage after you account for taxes and FICA.

Next to the impact it has on the body, the absolute ridiculous prices you have to pay to buy cigarettes should be reason enough not to smoke. It’s terrible for you but I get why people smoke, it’s something to do and it’s relaxing. Some people don’t like the weight gain when they stop smoking. But to pay $12 a pack? That adds up quickly. Granted, my reaction probably has to do with how I’ve never smoked, and I do enjoy an occasional beer (not to the tune of $12-$24 a day… I don’t think!) so maybe it’s similar.

That’s not what I’m curious about… what’s your biggest expenditure outside of your housing and groceries? For us, it’s easily going to be dining out. I don’t put eating at restaurants in the same category as eating at home, since it’s often more expensive and more of a luxury. We like to go out to dinner, especially to our favorite spots, because we can eat inexpensively, have no dishes, and just relax and have a good time. If we don’t go out, we can just as easily order takeout and enjoy it at home.

What’s your biggest expenditure each month?

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40 Responses to “Your Take: Poor Smokers Spend 25% Of Income on Cigarettes”

  1. Sam says:

    My biggest expense is Amtrak tickets to see my girlfriend in NYC. It’s more expensive than the bus, but it saves a lot of hassle and time. Since I can only see her on weekends, everything to save time is worth it.

  2. E says:

    Cannabis.
    I have multiple sclerosis, and do/can not take traditional symptom management drugs. On average it costs me 300-400 a month, that is close to a month of cigarettes in NY.

    I used to be a (cigarette) smoker, I can say the reason for quitting was more health than monetary. But you better believe that $12 pack is a good enough reason to quit. There must be quite a black market for cigarettes in NY.

  3. KnotReally says:

    Am I supposed to feel sympathy for someone that spends a portion of their income on what they want but only if that portion is large and their income low?
    It all boiles down to responsibility. I wouldnt call spending 25% of income on cig’s responsible but if they can afford to live that way then who am i to judge. They earned their money didn’t they? Shouldn’t they be free to spend as much as they want wherever they want?

    eating out.

  4. Andrew says:

    My biggest expenditure each month is child care. I have 2 children under the age of 5 and spend $2,945 per month for full time day care. It also doesn’t help that I live in Massachusetts (“The most expensive state for child care” according to CNN Money). http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/pf/1109/gallery.child_care_states/index.html

  5. DMoney says:

    Well, If smokers thought logically then I’m sure they wouldn’t blow 1/4 of their income on cigarettes — not it’s not logical, because it’s an addiction, and addictions are the anti-thesis of logic.

    So it’s 100 times harder than one may think to “stop”. Not an iron-clad excuse, I believe in willpower, but it’s not like “eating out” or something else you might call a “habit” – it’s much more powerful and controlling than that.

  6. Allison says:

    My biggest expense is gas. It’s close to $4 a gallon in MN. I try to save using coupons on Tuesdays (they double here).

  7. Soni Weiss says:

    Well, everyone has a right to spend their money on what they choose and it’s none of my business until their choices impact me….since I am paying a good portion of my taxes on medicare, medicade, disability, food stamps etc. then I figure I have some rights to. You want to smoke, o.k., but don’t ask me to supplement your health care costs….I am a respirtory therapist and I see what happens…cannibas is even worse tar so I hope you are using a water system to filter that out…it’s like driving a motorcycle without a helmet…you can do it, but don’t ask me to pay for your long term care ..sure we all do stupid things at time, but to continue behavior that you know is bad for your health and then expect someone else to bail you out..nope I have a problem with that.

    • E says:

      A study from this year found regular marijuana smokers (defined by up to a joint a day for seven years) had no discernible impairment in lung activity from non-smokers.

      http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104848

      Water does not filter out any impurities, it only cools the smoke.

      Oral and topical consumption along with vaporizers are safe means of medicating.

      I think we should be more concerned with the American Food Machine and how it churns out obesity and profit. The same obese consumers will likely require some sort of social health service in their lifetime. It is an awful cycle of eating where you crap.

    • freeby50 says:

      As a respiratory therapist I can understand you see the worst of it.

      Its been demonstrated before that the long term costs to society of smoking may be less than non smokers. While smokers can have higher healthcare costs on average they also die sooner. Dying sooner reduces the costs to society because it cuts the cost of social security and healthcare in the long run during old age. In the end heart disease, cancer, etc kill most people, it just kils smokers faster. Thats a morbid way to look at it but if you wanna complain about costing tax dollars then this is the reality…

  8. Ben says:

    C’mon people! :7) If the Administration believes that Sandra Fluke deserves Georgetown U’s $3000 birth control allowance then institutions and employers nationwide should provide cigs at no cost. It is a human right!
    HAHAHAHA!

  9. Jenny says:

    I can’t see spending that much for cigarettes, which will ultimate add to your health care costs in the future. I think we spend the most on either eating out or clothing and shoes for ourselves and the kids.

  10. GMA215 says:

    My husband is disabled due to Parkinson’s Disease and dementia. I quit my job as a nurse to care for him full-time at home. Our biggest monthly expenditure is health insurance. We spend more for health insurance premiums than we do for rent and utilities.

  11. Megan E. says:

    Just a note, the title for this article reads “$25%” – I believe the “$” should not be there…

    My biggest expense is mortgage, then groceries/household goods. We don’t have a lot of frivolous expenses…. we only get $200 a month for joint and personal fun (that’s $100 joint, 50 each) and then alcohol or whatever comes out of groceries. We don’t smoke.

    While they ARE making a choice to spend 25% of their income on smoking, I don’t think they FEEL they have a choice. But I do think people who pollute the air and their bodies should have to pay for it, I don’t want to have it around me and I don’t want to subsidize it. To that end, I do agree with Soni – do what you want, but don’t expect a handout when it hurts you.

  12. Yana says:

    Our biggest expense outside of housing and groceries is likely cigarettes for two smokers, although it compares to car expense.

  13. Matt M says:

    Thats crazy, you could probably retire with all the money some people spend on cigarettes.

  14. Claudia says:

    Wait! The ciggy tax does not go to offset the costs of healthcare due to smoking???!!! It just goes to city and state to blow away how they see fit? No wonder our hospitals are becoming abandoned buildings!!! These folks come in to the ER for exacerbation of emphysema with no health insurance and hospitals have to take them regardless of pay because in every ER room there’s a sign saying so.

  15. Our biggest expense outside of housing and groceries is health care.

    And note: Taxing cigarettes to death obviously does not stop people from smoking. Nor are the programs they fund very helpful. All they are good for is creating new bureaucracies that are then dependent on the revenue to continue.

  16. freeby50 says:

    Our largest expense outside of housing and groceries is probably our cars. It depends on how you cut the expenses up. If you count taxes then that is certainly the biggest other than housing. If you group expenses then automotive is highest past taxes. When I say ‘group expenses’ I mean putting all the car related expenses together : car insurance, gasoline, replacement cost, repairs, etc. Individually any of those aren’t our highest, but the combined cost of driving is certainly highest.

    • Shirley says:

      Looking at our cumulative expense spreadsheet, I see that the car related group, as you have described it, is our biggest individual expense. Next is our self-imposed deposits to savings, which I am thankful to be able to do.

  17. AndraMMM says:

    Well, to me the really bad thing about smoking cigarettes is supporting the tobacco companies. They who upped the nicotine content in order to addict smokers.

  18. Jim M says:

    My biggest expense is gasoline – between commuting, driving the kids around and running errands – my big gas guzzler ends up costing me about $350/month.

    Thankfully, I don’t smoke, but I remember my father giving up cigs in the 1960s because the price went up to .40/pack and with a young family he could no longer justify the expense.

  19. elloo says:

    Housing is my biggie (mortgage, real estate taxes and home insurance). Yikes. I bought a small house on purpose but it’s still a big expense.

    If low income NY’ers are using welfare to buy cigs, and then use Medicaid funds to treat the results of smoking, then the rest of us taxpayers are screwed twice.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ah, big tobacco sticking it to the poor. Maybe the 1% should pay their fair share so the 99% can smoke their cigaretts.

  21. I know a couple people that used to live in NY that paid this and made probably less than that… it is absolutely insane to me but I guess once you start you’re addicted. I’ll never smoke ever.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Up until yesterday, my biggest expenditure each month was mortgage. Now it is natural gas in the winter months and Verizon in the non-winter months.

  23. govenar says:

    It’s not clear what they’re including in “income”. Maybe 25% of what they earn at a job, and then the government gives them a bunch of welfare money, so they don’t really care how much of their job income they spend on cigarettes. (Or they just use their EBT cards to pay for the cigarettes directly.)
    Anyway, in my case dining out is also a big expense.

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is why we should not pay for health care, food,and all the other crap the government wants us to pay for. If these people pay 25% of there income for vice, why should they not pay taxes. Why should they get free health care? Why should there children get a whole day of free meals Monday through Friday? And on and on.If mom and dad see junior hungry, maybe that would be incentive to do what ever work they have to do to feed the kids.That worked for thousands of years. Now we have tried to play God with social engineering and those that work are paying for those that don’t work. But, they always find money for cigarettes. Let society balance out naturally. Even Jesus said “there will be poor always.”

  25. Kel says:

    This is why we should not pay for health care, food,and all the other crap the government wants us to pay for. If these people pay 25% of there income for vice, why should they not pay taxes. Why should they get free health care? Why should there children get a whole day of free meals Monday through Friday? And on and on.If mom and dad see junior hungry, maybe that would be incentive to do what ever work they have to do to feed the kids.That worked for thousands of years. Now we have tried to play God with social engineering and those that work are paying for those that don’t work. But, they always find money for cigarettes. Let society balance out naturally. Even Jesus said “there will be poor always.”


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