Final NYS Budget Excludes Gov. Cuomo's Proposed 160% Tax Hike on Cigars

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Thanks to the grassroots efforts of cigar enthusiasts, tobacconist, small businesses, and trade associations across the state, the final state budget bills being adopted by the New York State Legislature and to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not include a tax hike on cigars

In January, Gov. Cuomo proposed an executive budget with $1.1 billion in new taxes and fees, including raising the state excise tax on cigars from 28.5 percent to a whopping 75 percent, a stunning increase of 160 percent.  Representatives of New York’s cigar trade associations promptly jumped into action by working the halls of The State Capitol to kill the plan.  The State Assembly proceeded to pass a one-house budget bill supporting the tax hike, while the Senate adopted one opposing it.  The one-house bills identified priorities for legislative leaders in negotiating a final state budget.

Like many small businesses and tobacconists across the state, James & Sons Tobacconists had grave concerns about the significant spike it would have had on cigar prices – creating a massive black market in the same way that the state’s cigarette tax hike has – and forcing many tobacconists and small businesses across the state to close.

On February 28th, James & Sons Tobacconists owner James Kommer’s New York Post article “New York is Begging for a Black Market Cigar Industry” was published, the first media attention on the issue.  It made its way around social media and was featured on the Empire Report (New York’s version of Drudge Report).  Publications like Cigar Aficionado, Tobacco Business Magazine, and tv and radio media followed suit with stories on Cuomo’s harmful cigar tax hike. 

Thanks in part to the increased media attention, a grassroots coalition of cigar enthusiasts, tobacconists, small businesses, and trade associations (New York Association of Convenience Stores, New York Tobacconists Association, International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers, and Cigar Rights of America) were able to generate a wave of New Yorkers contacting their state legislators to urge them to oppose Gov. Cuomo’s harmful cigar tax hike

Our voice was heard in the halls of The State Capitol in Albany and we prevailed!  Victories like these are far and few between in deep blue northeastern states like New York.  Thank you to everyone who took action to save our small businesses and spare cigar enthusiasts from this draconian tax hike.

This statewide win comes on the heels of our successful local efforts to defeat a proposal in Saratoga County, where James & Sons Tobacconists is located, that would have prevented tax-paying residents aged 18 to 20, including a large number who serve in the military, from purchasing cigars.


New York is Begging for a Black Market Cigar Industry, by James Kommer, New York Post (Feb. 27)

Cigar Prices Could Rise Under State Budget, WGRZ Buffalo Channel 2 (Feb. 28)

Cigar Prices Could Go Up Under State Budget, WHEC Rochester Channel 10 (Mar. 1)

New York Tobacco Retailers Fear Consequences of Proposed Tax Hike, Tobacco Business Magazine (March 5)

New York Looks At Raising Cigar Taxes, Cigar Aficionado (March 6)

New York Cigar Voters – Say No To Premium Cigar Tax Increase By Governor Cuomo, Cigar Rights of America (March 7)