David Paterson vs. Philip Morris: A Great American Smokeout


In today’s battle of greater and lesser evils…. On one side, we have Altria (the pleasantly named yet clearly partial parent company of Philip Morris, which sells products that are proven to kill people). On the other, there’s the Paterson team.

Seems a fair match, no? So, who will go on to be America’s Next Top Model first be summoned to hell?

To catch you up: Paterson & Co. had proposed a $1 tax hike on cigarettes (raising the cost of your daily addiction from $7.61 to $8.79) to drum up $210 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Altria immediately got to work proving them wrong, and in a report issued today, per, confirmed that “Net state tax revenues would be only $90.1 million higher with the tax hike.”

Beyond that, they said, the tax could lead to a 20 percent drop in taxable packs sold, meaning New York City “stands to lose $29.4 million” due to reduced sales after the tax. (Of course, $12.8 million of that currently goes to the state to pay for tobacco-control programs. Which, depending on how you look at it, is either a win-win or a lose-lose.)

Paterson budget spokesman Matt Anderson says the estimate, which assumes a 14 percent decline in smoking, “is a fair and accurate assessment of the revenues that will be produced.” Not to mention, “it would make New Yorkers healthier.”

So, who’s right, who’s wrong, and does it even matter? The way things are looking, smokers will keep smoking, the budget will remain out of control, and rats will overrun New York City.

If duels were still in fashion, we’d call this one a draw.