New York State's tax on cigarettes could soar to a national high of $3.75 per pack, under one proposal being considered by the Assembly. The $1-per-pack increase in the state's cigarette tax is likely to be included in the budget resolution Democrats plan to unveil soon; one lawmaker tells the Daily News, "It's the least bad choice among all the revenues." The added tax could generate more than $200 million in revenue, which would help restore about $600 million of the $1.1 billion in school aid cuts that Governor Paterson proposed. And speaking of the budget, the Senate included a resolution in their bill legalizing medical marijuana. But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says they don't "look at [medical marijuana] as revenue-raiser."

In other smoking ghettoization news, yesterday a judge upheld a ban in NYC on sales of flavored tobacco products. A coalition of smokeless tobacco companies had challenged the ban in court, arguing that "the FDA is the only agency with the right combination of scientific expertise, regulatory experience and public-health mission to oversee these [tobacco] products effectively." But according to the AP, Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the law signed last fall "doesn't interfere with the FDA's recent ban on cigarettes made to taste like candy, fruit and cloves," because "the city's law restricts only the sale of tobacco products other than cigarettes in NYC," such as chewing tobacco.

A Health Department study [pdf] found that teen use of cigars and cigarillos has almost tripled in recent years. Officials are currently urging New Yorkers to quit as part of their annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Giveaway Program. The program ends tomorrow at midnight. Since 2003, the Health Department has distributed nicotine patches and gum to more than 200,000 NYC smokers during annual giveaways, enabling an estimated 70,000 to quit. Last year, some 28,000 smokers accepted the offer, according to the Health Department.