In this week's New Yorker, Benjamin Shapiro files a funny story about a retail tobacco outlet on Staten Island and the Lower East Side that's been exploiting a perceived loophole in the city's obscene cigarette tax law. At Island Tobacco, customers can get a pack of smokes that normally cost $13 for $6—or less. The store does this by requiring smokers—aka the 14%—to roll their own coffin nails using on-site cigarette stuffing machines. Island Tobacco's owners contend that this allows them to sell products as loose tobacco, which is taxed at a lower rate.
One of Island Tobacco's owners is John Kimball, a retired NYPD captain. He's a non-smoker but also Libertarian, and he tells the New Yorker, "I've watched New York smokers get turned into lepers. These are my friends and family! They aren't felons." But in the eyes of the law, Kimball is engaged in illegal activity. The Office of Tax Enforcement has investigated the operation and told the city that Island Tobacco violates at least three laws, and an attorney with the City of New York Law Department has sent cease-and-desist letters to both outlets, urging them to shut down immediately.
"I can’t understand why they’d want to shut us down if we want to provide a healthy alternative to the public," co-owner Patrick Donnelly tells the Post, referring to the shop’s natural, additive-free tobacco. We simply can't understand why, either! In totally unrelated news, Mayor Bloomberg says untaxed cigarette sales cost New York $1 billion a year in lost revenue.