Health Organizations Praise Signing of Cigarette Tax Evasion Bill

Say Paterson's leadership will benefit health of New Yorkers

ALBANY, NY (12/15/2008)(readMedia)-- Gov. Paterson today improved the health of New Yorkers by signing into law a measure to help end cigarette tax evasion by non-Indians purchasing tobacco on Indian reservations, said representatives of the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association of New York.

The groups praised Paterson's leadership, noting his courageous action will help end the longstanding problem of cigarette tax evasion by signing the bill into law. The governor signed the measure into law in Utica, near the homes of the bill sponsors, state Assemblyman William Magee, and Senator Michael Nozzolio.

"With one stroke of his pen, Governor Paterson has moved New York State one step closer to helping reduce the deadly effects of tobacco use," said Michael Seilback, Vice President, Public Policy & Communications for the American Lung Association of New York. "Higher cigarette prices discourage youths from starting to smoke and help adults quit."

"Smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death," said Edward Philbin, M.D., a member of the American Heart Association's Capital Region Advisory Board and associate professor and vice chair for clinical affairs, department of medicine, and George Pataki Chair in Cardiology at Albany Medical Center. "Governor Paterson's commitment to fight tobacco use by collecting cigarette taxes is a huge public health win for all New Yorkers as it will reduce the number of people who smoke, and lower health care costs from cigarette-related illnesses."

"Untaxed cigarettes provide a cheap way to feed a deadly addiction," said Donald Distasio, CEO, American Cancer Society of NY & NJ. "Because higher cigarette prices discourage smoking, collection of this tax will prompt 150,000 smokers to quit, save the state future smoking-related healthcare costs, and provide revenue to sustain vital health programs in a difficult economy."

In November, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association of New York posted a "tobacco tax ticker" ( that shows how much the state has lost in uncollected cigarette tax revenue since the tax was increased to $2.75 per pack on June 3. As of Dec. 14, that amount stood at $321,516,735.

Under the measure that Paterson signed into law, cigarette manufacturers would be prohibited from shipping cigarettes to any wholesale dealer unless the dealer certifies the cigarettes won't be sold tax-free. Non-Indians purchasing cigarettes through Indian Nation venues will have to pay the tax; although Indians will still be able to purchase cigarettes tax-free on reservations. The Supreme Court upheld the state's right to collect the tax on cigarettes sold to non-natives on reservations 15 years ago, but Paterson could be the first governor to implement collection.

The groups called it a good sign that revenue from the tax is reportedly included in the state budget the governor will present on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and said they looked forward to working with the governor and the state Legislature to help get the law implemented.