Background: To illustrate the burden of high cigarette excise taxes on low-income smokers.
Methodology/principal findings: Using data from the New York and national Adult Tobacco Surveys from 2010-2011, we estimated how smoking prevalence, daily cigarette consumption, and share of annual income spent on cigarettes vary by annual income (less than $30,000; $30,000-$59,999; and more than $60,000). The 2010-2011 sample includes 7,536 adults and 1,294 smokers from New York and 3,777 adults and 748 smokers nationally. Overall, smoking prevalence is lower in New York (16.1%) than nationally (22.2%) and is strongly associated with income in New York and nationally (P<.001). Smoking prevalence ranges from 12.2% to 33.7% nationally and from 10.1% to 24.3% from the highest to lowest income group. In 2010-2011, the lowest income group spent 23.6% of annual household income on cigarettes in New York (up from 11.6% in 2003-2004) and 14.2% nationally. Daily cigarette consumption is not related to income.
Conclusions/significance: Although high cigarette taxes are an effective method for reducing cigarette smoking, they can impose a significant financial burden on low-income smokers.