From: New York Post
The Issue: How high taxes on cigarette sales can encourage organized crime or fund terrorism.
While I’m not surprised at anything Thomas Farley, our take-no-prisoners health commissioner, says, I’m a little disappointed in Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s collaborating in Farley’s brand of illogic (“Time To Smoke Out NY’s Butt-leggers” May 20).
As with liquor prohibition in the ’20s, the solution to the crime of cigarette smuggling is not to spend more police time and taxpayer money on law enforcement, but to repeal the prohibitive taxes that spur the black market.
Stores that sell untaxed, smuggled cigarettes not only break the law, but hurt many law-abiding small businesses.
Higher cigarette taxes have been critical in reducing both adult and youth smoking rates. Coupled with stronger enforcement measures, such as those the mayor and City Council recently proposed, New York can continue to reduce the number of deaths from smoking and prevent young people from ever starting.
In this city, 20,000 public high-school students smoke. One-third of them will die prematurely.
That’s the price we pay when stores sell untaxed, illegal cigarettes.
Sheelah A. Feinberg
Executive Director NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City
Kelly and Farley miss the main reason the city has cigarette bootlegging.
The blame for this lies completely at the feet of our out-of-touch and elitist mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg increased tobacco taxes to confiscatory levels, which raised the price of a carton of cigarettes to over $100.
The only thing this silly policy did was create a new business for organized crime, terrorist organizations and other sorts of criminals, because the risk is now worth the reward.
If Kelly and Farley want to stop cigarette bootlegging, they should implore our nanny-state tyrant to bring cigarette taxes back to a reasonable level, and this problem will disappear immediately.
A senior in high school taking a basic economics class would realize this. Hopefully, Bloomberg will too.
Instead of pushing a bill called “Sensible Tobacco Enforcement,” Kelly should advocate a bill called “Sensible Tobacco Taxation.”
The law would limit New York’s combined local and state tobacco taxes to just 10 percent more than any other state’s, thereby drastically reducing the monetary incentive to smuggle cigarettes.
The solution to the sale of illegal cigarettes from Virginia is simple: Lower the taxes that make butt-legging profitable.
Butt-legging has been a government-caused problem for decades.
Back in the ’70s, WCBS-radio reporter Jerry Nachman — later The Post’s editor-in-chief — interviewed an anonymous mafioso on his Sunday night show and was shocked by his candor.
At one point, the mafioso announced that he personally wished to thank the governments of New York state and city for raising taxes so ridiculously high that it made it possible and profitable to engage in butt-legging.
If Kelly and Farley wish to eliminate butt-legging and its associated scourges, let them persuade local and state governments to reduce their cigarette taxes, instead of lecturing us about how they need tougher enforcement.
James A. Nollet
Losing tax revenue from the sale of illegal cigarettes is a product of New York’s out-of-control regulations and taxes.
I guess our elected officials have not learned from the past. The cigarette underground is this decade’s version of Prohibition. It is a known fact that smoking kills, but raising the tax does not make people quit.
I highly doubt that a $2,000 or $5,000 fine is going to bother someone who is making millions from illegal tobacco sales. New York has created this monster, and it is now out of control.