Friday, August 1st, 2014
5

What a Pack of Cigarettes Costs, State By State

favlooorrEvery year, we check the prices of cigarettes in all fifty legally recognized states of this fair Union. (Previously: 2013; 2012; 2011.) Predictably, the results are mostly—but not entirely!—grim: for the first time in the short history of this survey, not a single store in any state state offered us a pack of cigarettes for less than five dollars. So do smoke them, if you happen to have them, since nothing is ever going to get better.

This year, reigning affordable tobacco merchant Kentucky was resoundingly knocked out of the top spot; four states now offer cheaper cigarettes. If obtaining the cheapest possible cigarettes from nearby convenience stores is the overriding factor in the choice of your domicile's location, you can set your Google Maps coordinates for Virginia or Missouri. While New York and Illinois both offer some relief, they manage to retain their position as the states where cigarettes are most likely to cause you to bounce your rent check. Also of note: Oklahoma cigarettes cost 21 percent more this year than last, and Minnesota's are up by 36 percent.

As for where these numbers come from: we called convenience stores and gas stations in the most highly populated areas of each state (obvious disclaimer: prices aren't the same in every store in every area), and asked politely for the cost of a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes. The current price is in bold; last summer's price is in parentheses. As always, YMMV.

48. Virginia (last year -$5.81), Missouri ($5.25): $5.25 = -10%, +0%

47. Tennessee ($5.89): $5.30 = -10%

46. North Dakota ($5.04): $5.33 = -6%

45. Kentucky ($4.96): $5.40 = +9%

44. Wyoming ($5.37), Idaho ($5.25): $5.41 = +.01%, +3%

43. West Virginia ($5.07): $5.43 = +7%

42. Louisiana ($5.33): $5.44 = +2%

41. North Carolina ($6.03): $5.45 = -10%

40. Alabama ($5.80): $5.51 = -5%

39. South Carolina ($5.55): $5.58 = +.01%

38. Colorado ($5.59): $5.65 = +1%

37. Oregon ($5.35): $5.69 = +6%

36. Kansas ($6.21): $5.83 = -6%

35. California ($6.77): $5.89 = -13%

34. Indiana ($5.77): $5.97 = +4%

33. Ohio ($5.88): $6.03 = +3%

32. Arkansas ($6.50): $6.07 = -7%

31. South Dakota ($6.77): $6.08 = -10%

30. Nevada ($5.50): $6.15 = +12%

29. Nebraska ($6.09): $6.23 = +2%

28. Oklahoma ($5.19), Iowa ($7.25): $6.29 = +21%, -13%

27. Florida ($6.00): $6.30 = +5%

26. Mississippi ($5.45): $6.34 = +16%

25. Delaware ($6.00): $6.35 = +6%

24. Georgia ($5.93): $6.39 = +8%

23. New Hampshire ($6.59): $6.44 = -2%

22. Montana ($6.25): $6.46 = +3%

21. Texas ($7.24): $6.69 = -8%

20. Pennsylvania ($6.95): $6.85 = -1%

19. Utah ($6.64): $6.89 = +4%

18. Maine ($7.12): $7.37 = +4%

17. New Mexico ($6.91): $7.67 = +11%

16. Maryland ($7.93): $7.75 = -2%

15. D.C. ($7.89): $7.99 = +1%

14. Michigan ($6.95): $8.00 = +15%

13. Arizona ($9.65): $8.05 = -17%

12. Minnesota ($5.95): $8.10 = +36%

11. New Jersey ($8.55): $8.20 = -4%

10. Wisconsin ($8.11): $8.82 = +9%

9. Rhode Island ($9.56): $8.95 = -6%

8. Washington ($8.31): $9.30 = +12%

7. Connecticut ($9.30): $9.52 = +2%

6. Hawaii ($9.68): $9.55 = -1%

5. Vermont ($9.52): $9.62 = +1%

4. Alaska ($9.59): $9.79 = +2%

3. Massachusetts ($8.77): $9.95 = +13%

2. Illinois ($11.59): $11.50 = -.01%

1. New York ($14.50): $12.85 = -11%





Noah Kulwin is The Awl's summer data journalism fellow.

5 Comments / Post A Comment

theheckle (#621)

As a non-smoker, I cannot figure out why I look forward to this post every year.

In examining price changes, are most price declines just due to changes in the marketplace? I can't imagine taxes are going down.

Eric69 (#284,611)

@theheckle The declines would probably be due to marketplace, but many of the increases you see are as as well. Marlboro seems to raise prices about 10 cents every year. Taxes have gone up in two states since last year but most states have the same taxation. If each price was based off the cheapest you could get it for legally per state, you would see less fluctuation in price from year to year.

At my last job I drove from Missouri to Iowa and back about every other day. I noticed how many tobacco, alcohol, and fireworks stores are right there on the border. As a non-smoker it took me awhile to realize how insanely low cigarette prices are here.

price_yeah (#284,733)

In Missouri, you can still get a pack of quality smokes for less than $4 if you know where to go.

It would be great for you to compare these cost with what each state is paying in prevention programs and what the CDC recommends for each state. You can find this information at https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/content/what_we_do/state_local_issues/settlement/FY2014/3.%20FY2014%20Rankings%20of%20Funding%20for%20State%20Tobacco%20Prevention%20Programs.pdf

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