This summer, New York City resident Eric Garner was killed by police in the course of an arrest for selling individual cigarettes — “loosies” — on the street. The illicit loosies market exists because of laws against selling single cigarettes (as opposed to packs or cartons). It’s especially important in New York, where a fully taxed pack of cigarettes costs about $12.50, and sellers of loosies often buy much cheaper packs illegally brought in from Virginia or North Carolina, where cigarette taxes are much lower.
If stores were allowed to sell individual cigarettes, and if New York’s cigarette taxes were no higher than those elsewhere, there wouldn’t have been any demand for illicit loosies, and therefore Eric Garner wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sell them. No illegal sale, no arrest, no struggle with the arresting officer, no death. Therefore — according to some pundits and politicians, including one who intends to run for president — the “nanny state” tobacco-control effort is responsible for the death of Eric Garner.
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