Majority of WNY smokers buy at reservations

TUSCARORA INDIAN RESERVATION (WIVB) — New York State has the highest cigarette tax rate in the country, so it’s no surprise that smokers are turning to a cheaper source for their smokes.

Western New York is the only region in the country where a majority of smokers get their cigarettes from Indian Reservations. That’s what researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute are learning.

Glenn Newberry swings into Jay’s Place on the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, quite often, for one reason.

“Just come to get some cigarettes,” Newberry said.

There’s a very good reason why he buys his cigarettes here, rather than anywhere else in New York State.

“I save about $70 a carton,” Newberry said. “You know, New York taxes the hell out of us.”

And Glenn is far from alone.

In fact, researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute have found a majority of smokers in Western New York now buy their cigarettes at Reservation smoke shops.

“Yeah it’s very concerning to me. Because one of the most effective deterrents to cigarette smoking is high prices,” said Dr. Andrew Hyland at Roswell.

New York has the highest cigarette prices in the country. But if smokers are willing to buy Reservation brands such as Senecas, they can buy them 75 percent cheaper than brands like Marlboro.

The medical community finds that concerning.

“When people are essentially circumventing that tax by purchasing cheaper cigarettes, it means there are more people smoking. Eventually that’s more cancer, heart disease, emphysema down the road,” Hyland said.

But members of the reservation say, smoke shops provide jobs and the money coming in has helped improve their way life.

“We all have running water. We have indoor plumbing. And 30 years ago it was unbelievable how many people didn’t have those things,” said Shinny Clause, an employee at Jay’s Place. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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