A Few New Yorkers Will Go to Great Lengths to Keep Smoking

Here's how the last 14 percent of the city avoids quitting smoking

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The City of New York proudly announced on Thursday that the portion of its population that smokes had dropped to 14 percent -- the lowest in the city's history. It has high tobacco prices, strict anti-smoking laws, and an aggressively graphic ad campaign to thank for that. But it will probably be very difficult to stub out the habits of the remaining hold-outs. Despite some of the toughest anti-smoking measures in the country, New Yorkers will go to great lengths to avoid the city's tax rate. We've rounded up a few, below.

  • Buy Not in Bulk: A hefty bundle of taxes means a pack of cigarettes costs about $14.50 in New York City. But smokers who can't afford that kind of bite and still want to light up often go for individual smokes, called loosies, which can be found on a lot of city street corners. Back in April, The New York Times reported that the single-cigarette trade was booming, as smokers on a budget felt a lot more comfortable parting with 75 cents for a cigarette than $14 for 20.
  • Roll it Yourself: A lot of New York smokers buy loose tobacco and a cheap hand-held cigarette roller in order to squeeze more cigarettes out of their purchase. A pack of loose tobacco costs about the same as pre-rolled, but comes with a book of 50 papers, which you can use most of if you're conservative. 
  • Small-Time Trafficking: Smokes are a little cheaper across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey, but so many New Yorkers have connections just slightly farther afield. When visiting relatives in, say, Delaware, many return with a couple of $60 cartons that will last until the next trip home. 
  • Buying on the Black Market: For those that don't have reason go to cheap-cigarette states, plenty of people are willing to fill the gap. Back in April, New York used an anti-Mafia law to bust a cigarette-smuggling ring, but still, cheap cigarettes find their way into the hands of street vendors and some shops. The loose-sellers mentioned above will frequently part with a pack for $5.
  • Grow it Yourself: For the supremely dedicated with a little garden space, there's always the option of growing your own tobacco. It sounds improbable but that's what Audrey Silk, the leader of smokers-rights lobbying group New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (NYC CLASH), does in her Brooklyn home. She told Village Voice it saved her "thousands."
  • Flout the Law: After the city in banned smoking in public parks in May (it's already illegal in bars, restaurants, office buildings, and the transit system), New Yorkers responded by not changing their behavior at all. The New York Daily News even talked to a doctor who wasn't deterred by the city's latest restriction.
  • Grit Your Teeth, Open Your Wallet, and Pay $14 For Your Cigarettes, Which You Will Then Smoke Outside in the Freezing Cold: That's how most people do it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.