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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. Ray says:

    I can totally see this number on average, but its probably skewed heavily on a few select smokers who spend most if not all of their income to get their fix.

    I’ve seen people get advances in their paycheck so they can get their fix. I’ve seen homeless people spend their earned change on cigarettes instead of food.

    There’s a great gap between smokers too, I’ve met people who smoke less than once a month and people who smoke a pack a day. With the smoking taxes in my area that’s $10 per day.

  2. Nicotine is said to be more addictive than heroin. If that’s so, then the cost of the drug is irrelevant, from the user’s point of view.

    • Texas Wahoo says:

      Maybe nicotine is more addictive than heroin if you inject it into your veins; there is no way smoking is more addictive than heroin.

  3. As a smoker, I can tell you that I would put my furniture on the front lawn and sell all of it for $5 before I would willingly go through the withdrawal symptoms from not buying cigarettes. Pathetic but true.

    I have tried every possible method of quitting – hypnosis, patches, gum, Chantix, cold turkey, gradually cutting down…. All of them are effective in the short term. But on a long term basis, even once I make it through the 3-4 days of shaking, vomiting, and aching from withdrawals (nope, not exaggerating), as soon as I see or smell a cigarette, I’m right back where I started.

    I know smoking is disgusting and expensive and unhealthy. But that doesn’t stop my body from needing the nicotine now that I’ve become dependent on it. I’m spending about 3% of my annual income on smoking, and until I find a way to quit for good, I can live with that. I just wish that people who are smart enough not to smoke could understand what it’s like to be that addicted to something. Not that I wish this on anyone, but it’s hard to be judged for something that is so hard to control. It was my choice to start smoking in the first place, but as a teenager I had no idea I wouldn’t be able to stop when I wanted to.

  4. JP Adams says:

    Thanks Jim. Very interesting stat. I would not have expected this result. Frankly it’s shocking. It suggests that in fact high taxes are not effective at decreasing smoking. I wonder what the gender split is. There’s pretty interesting data from the micro-finance world that shows that low income women are more responsible than men with money.

    To answer your question. My largest “variable” expenses are travel (about 40%) and eating out/drinking out (about 30%). I have made sure that I set the appropriate foundation first however. 25% of my income goes to retirement each month, I have good insurance, and I am tracking my expenses on a weekly basis to stay may sure I don’t stray from my goals.

  5. Robert says:

    I think they should have the Obama “smokes” right next to the Obama “Phones” take as many of each as you’d like..

  6. Robert says:

    On a serious note. Of course the government knew higher taxes on cigarettes would not deter most who smoke to stop smoking. That was really never the point. It was a money grab by the feds for an industry that is disdained by most. Let’s face it, if they truly believed smoking is as bad as they say it is, they would ban it just like Mayor Bloomberg is planning on limiting Soda sizes in NY City..

    The old saying “follow the money” is ever so true here too..

  7. Julie says:

    We roll our own. Cost of commercially made smokes was $325 for 6 cartons a month (3 every two weeks). Roll-your-owns cost us $75 a month for tubes and tobacco. We smoke less now (a LOT less) because they are better quality and the tobacco is less chemically-treated than commercial smokes. Neither the state nor federal government assesses cigarette taxes on loose tobacco, so we indulge tax free (not even sales tax on internet purchase of our supplies.)

  8. Janna m says:

    My biggest expense is gas …. easily 20-30% of my take home income. With the recent gas spikes in CA it would easily cost me $250 per week to fill up. Before it was about $160. Luckily I just moved closer to work, cut my commute in half and now biking is an option as well, so I can get by on a half tank a week instead. With current gas prices it’s still about $120 per month but hoping gas prices will fall and/or ill bike more often.

  9. ace carolla says:

    i dont smoke but i eat like a little piggy.

    i go to safeway and for 5.00 US dollars i can get 50 safeway brand cookies – choco chip, oatmeal, peanut butter, smores, red velvet, etc.

    i eat the whole thing within 24-36 hours. real bad for anyone huh? it’s 2.6 pounds….of mostly sugar.

    i do it every week or two. it’ll probably give me type 2 diabetes.


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