Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bodegas Be Damned

As the NY Sun is reporting today, the NYS legislature has agreed to raise the state cigarette tax by $1.25, and by doing so is sticking another knife in the back of the state's C-stores and bodegas. As the Sun tells us: "A state budget office spokesman, Jeffrey Gordon, says the tax would raise $265 million for the budget, much of which would be used for health programs. The hike will bring the tax to $2.75."

No mention from the state about the shouts of glee from organized crime and terrorists who have been feasting on the black market in bootlegged smokes. Last year the NY Daily News did an undercover investigation and found: ""The bootlegging undermines the purpose of the tax increase, which is to get people to quit," said Dr. Donna Shelley of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, who published a study on the phenomenon. "They're on the streets, in the subways, in the hospital, so even if you were thinking about quitting, they serve as a trigger to smoke," said Shelley, who published her findings in the American Journal of Public Health. One recent day, hustlers on 125th St. and Lenox Ave. tried to hook passersby with shouts of "Newports!" and "Loosies!" Packs were selling for $4 to $5, and single cigarettes were going for 50 cents. In some parts of Manhattan, one pack at a retail outlet can cost $9 after the $1.50 city tax and $1.50 state tax are tacked on.

As we told the NY Daily News last year: "Bootleggers also troll Fordham Road in the Bronx and parts of East New York and Bushwick in Brooklyn, said Richard Lipsky, a spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance." So what we have is a direct assault on small business with the only profitable side of the sale of tobacco being criminals and the government-and it's increasingly difficult to distinguish one from the other.