A Year After Eric Garner's Death, Sales of Loose Cigarettes Continue
July 16, 2015•7 min
"Everybody on Staten Island know, if you wanna pay $8 for a pack of cigarettes, go to Bay Street."
Almost one year ago, cigarette salesman Debo Lato stood on the street where Eric Garner also allegedly sold loose cigarettes. Lato told reporter Solange Uwimana, writing for Vice, that Garner's death would not hamper his black market business. Today, one year has passed since Garner died after being placed in a police chokehold — after he resisted arrest for selling loosies.
Uwimana says the black market still seems to be thriving.
Cigarettes in New York City are the most expensive in the country, thanks in large part to the taxes here. The state tax is $4.35; the city excise tax adds another $1.50. Garner's death has sparked a debate among both conservatives and liberals about whether the tax is leading smokers to quit, as it was designed to do. Staten Island is the borough with the most smokers in the city, according to a 2012 NYC Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene Report.
Shortly after Garner's death, Police Commissioner William Bratton said though the sale of loose cigarettes may seem like a "minor quality-of-life offense," it hurts local businesses. While untaxed cigarettes continue to thrive, the Wall Street Journal reported that arrests of illicit cigarette salesmen have dropped in the past year.
Money Talking Host Charlie Herman speaks with Uwimana, now with the Village Voice, about her Vice report to explore how the market works and what's changed one year later.