New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo hopes to collect state excise taxes on cigarettes on Indian reservations.
This would garner a hoped-for $130 million for the state and end the $5-per-pack disparity between reservations and regular retail operations in local stores -- at least for the sale of major brands of cigarettes.
The state, however, does not have authority to tax Indian-manufactured cigarettes sold on reservations.
In fact, the governor may have a surprise in store, particularly if locals start switching to Indian-made cigarettes.
Last week, we reported that Tuscarora Indian and local businessman Joseph Anderson, who is already selling his "Smokin' Joe" brand of cigarettes, is preparing to expand his operations in a bid to make his brand the best-selling cigarette in the area.
"We don't need Philip Morris," he told the Reporter. "We can make our own cigarettes."
At his retail stores, Anderson sells a carton of Marlboro for $55. His Indian-manufactured cigarettes range from $25 to as low as $14 per carton. Marlboro costs about $100 a carton at local stores.
Anderson's "Smokin' Joe" brand already outsells the major brands six-to-one at his stores.
Anderson sells his cigarettes for $5 to $8 less per pack.
How much the enforcement of the taxation of cigarettes will mean in our area, where the drive from downtown Niagara Falls to the Tuscarora Reservation is a mere nine miles, is anyone's guess.
If the governor succeeds in taxing the major brands on reservations, will there be an explosion in Indian-made cigarette sales? Will this cost the majors enough to make them wince a little?
In 2010, there were an estimated 500 billion cigarettes sold in America.
The major companies -- Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and Liggett Vector -- thrive in an industry bent on attracting young smokers.
The average starting age for habitual smokers in the United States is 13 years. That has not changed since stringent smoking laws have come into existence.
Ninety percent of smokers start before the age of 18, according to government studies. In the United States, an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one in every five, occur each year attributable to cigarette smoking.
This incentivizes major manufacturers to attract young smokers, since they lose many longtime customers from the direct use of their product.
Deaths from cigarette smoking is greater than the combined deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle deaths, suicides and murders.
It causes 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent in women, as well as cardiovascular disease, emphysema, and other cancers.
Public health officials maintain that an increase in taxes on cigarettes results in a direct reduction in smoking, particularly among teenagers.
If the law is enforced by Cuomo, will the dynamics of the area's smoking habits change?
Will fewer young people start?
Interestingly, Indian manufacturers of cigarettes, like Anderson, traditionally do not employ marketing techniques directed toward children. They present their product in unvarnished, simple packaging.
The kinship between tobacco and Indians is one worth studying on many levels.
The native American word for tobacco -- "Oyen'gwa' onwe" -- is strangely similar to "Ongwehonwe," which means, "We are native Americans."
This story is one of growing interest for more than just the major manufacturers, the governor, native Americans and local smokers.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||March 29, 2011|