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    Smoke Goes Stale in NYC

    Record-high tobacco taxes snuff sales.

    NEW YORK -- Cigarette sales in New York City have been cut in half since July last year, largely due to a dramatic tax increase that pushed retail prices of a pack of premium cigarettes to more than $7.

    New Yorkers bought 15.6 million cigarette packs last month, down from 29.2 million packs in July 2001, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. But because the city tax was much higher, revenue more than quintupled, from $2.3 million to $12.3 million.

    The new tax -- $1.50 per pack -- which Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported to help close a record budget gap, spiked the price of some premium brands to more than $7 per pack. According to the Associated Press, there were no studies yet to determine whether city dwellers are quitting smoking or perhaps buying product outside New York City.

    One city resident, however, told CSNews Online that his efforts to quit smoking are purely cost-motivated. "We can't afford it -- it's $50 a week if you buy a pack a day."

    "The mayor has said that, for the city, he hopes that the revenue on the cigarette tax goes to zero because that would mean no one is smoking," said Bloomberg spokesman Jordan Barowitz. "As for the state, any decreases in revenue the state might see would be offset by significantly lower health-care costs the state would be responsible for because of the costs of smoking-related illnesses."

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