Last week, Erica Garner died.* She was the daughter of Eric Garner, who died while resisting arrest for selling individual cigarettes, otherwise known as “loosies.”* Most news stories about her death begin this way: “Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, who died from a police choke-hold screaming ‘I can’t breath...’ ”* This event lead Erica to become an activist against police brutality.
All reports leave out the reason why police were subduing him. The reports leave out that a grand jury did not find the officer used an illegal choke-hold. The reports leave out the fact that Eric Garner died of a heart attack brought on by an asthma attack and that he was overweight.* The reports leave out the fact that neither the Obama nor Trump Justice Departments have found that the police denied Eric Garner his civil rights.*
The biggest fact the reports always fail to mention is that Eric Garner was being arrested on orders from Mayor De Blasio, who was directing the police department to crack down on people selling loosies.* Why? Easy. Follow the money. New York City was losing tax dollars because of these illegal sales. In New York City, that tax is $5.85 a pack. In New York State, slightly less. In fact, New York cigarette taxes are the highest in the nation (what else is new?).
In fact, according to the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, cigarette smuggling compared to drug smuggling is the preferred criminal endeavor because, as the laws are written, it is an extremely low risk/high reward criminal enterprise. In New York, it is an $11 billion business. At the end of 2017, New York seized $6.6 million worth of illegal tobacco products, up by more than $1 million from 2016. The booty from bootlegging funds organized crime and terrorism.
We are being told we need the high taxes to prevent smoking. In fact, smoking is at its lowest in decades because of the taxes. Here is the truth: Legal cigarette purchases are the lowest in decades. Truth is, people did not stop smoking. OK, maybe some did, but as money always find a way, people just stopped buying legal cigarettes. Last November, the Tax Foundation issued a report stating that bootleg purchases amount to 60 percent of all purchases. This means more cigarettes are sold illegally then legally. Like prohibition before it, government social engineering has caused an unintended consequence, for history has proved this, of encouraging criminal behavior.
The answer does not lay in more enforcement nor higher penalties. Prohibition proved those methods do not work. Government always fails when trying to criminalize human behavior. No, the answer is lowering the taxes as to make bootlegging not so profitable. When taxes were reasonable and the price of a pack of smokes did not cost an arm and a leg, bootlegging though it was happening, was not nearly as prevalent. Neither was the selling of loosies.
The sad fact is had nanny Bloomberg, nanny DeBlasio, nanny New York State government tried not to social engineer human behavior because they do not like something (and if they do not like it, neither should you), both Eric and Erica Garner would probably be alive today.*
Last week, as he gears up for re-election, state Sen. David Carlucci announced his intentions to propose a law taxing vaping, which as of now is not. Here is proof of another dunce who will not learn the lessons of history.
This is what I say. What say you?
Editor's Note: This article was edited to correct the misspellings of Eric Garner and Erica Garner's names.