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Amid the contention over the Eric Garner case — whether the force used against him was justified, how much his criminal and medical histories should bear on the events, etc. — two points have emerged with what should be crystal clarity: that the cigarette taxes that make selling “loosies” so profitable are absurd, and that the crime Garner was being arrested for at the time of his death is almost wholly a creation of these taxes.
To give a sense of just how crazy cigarette taxes are in New York City, consider that each pack of 20 is subject to $4.35 in state taxes, plus an additional $1.50 in city taxes: in all, a little over $0.29 per cigarette. Given that cigarettes are legally available within a day’s drive for less than the cost of the taxes, it’s little wonder that an estimated 57% of the cigarettes sold in the state are smuggled in (the highest rate in the nation; Lord knows how much higher the figure is for NYC itself). It’s even less of a surprise that street vendors like Garner and this fellow can make a living selling individual cigarettes for $0.70 each or $1 for two.
Now, given this situation — and the supposed concern for people victimized by overzealous law enforcement — you would think that at least someone in the Empire State or Gotham would call for a reexamination of the tax policies that directly led to Garner’s arrest and, indirectly, to his death.