New York Cigarette Smokers Will Pay Top Dollar – What’s Next, Your Job?

New York smokers will start paying the highest cigarette taxes in the U.S. after an increase of 58 percent pushed some prices to almost $11 a pack.  The purpose of this recent tax hike is to give smokers a financial incentive to quit smoking.  According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group in Washington, New York ranked 14th among U.S. states in pack sales of cigarettes in 2009, having bought 482.7 million packs, accounting for 2.9 percent of U.S. sales.

In this struggling economy, some employers have joined the anti-smoking brigade by eliminating all smoking breaks for employees.  To date, there is no New York or federal law that requires an employer to provide employees with a smoking break.  Employees who work a shift of more than six hours starting before 11 A.M. and continuing until 2 P.M. must have an uninterrupted lunch period of at least half an hour between 11 A.M. and 2 P.M.  However, other breaks, including smoking breaks, are not required.  NY Labor Law.  The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938) speaks to the subject of work breaks.  It requires employers to pay workers for any breaks less than 20 minutes long, or where it is expected that the employee will be called back to work.  A company could, in theory, have a policy that provides smoking breaks must be at least 20 minutes long, and that smokers “punch out” for their cigarette breaks.  While that sounds good in theory, it’s rarely applied.  However, to be consistent, employers would have to insure that nonsmoking workers have access to the same break time.

The attorneys of Leeds Morelli and Brown, P.C. are experienced and determined employment law practitioners who will fight hard to make sure your rights are preserved.  If you find your employer is engaging in questionable discriminatory behavior, we urge you to contact an attorney at Leeds, Morelli & Brown, P.C. for a free consultation at 1-888- 585-4658 or our firm’s website at