Right on cue the vigilant bureaucrats at Protect-You-From-Yourself-Central, A.K.A., New York City, have launched a volley for concerned tax-feeder busybodies everywhere. Writes LRC Blog reader, James Nellis:
The linked piece is chock-full of statist brilliance, and I don't want to spoil it for you, but the bottom line is this. Folks in NYC who smoke have found a way to circumvent the gargantuan taxes levied against packaged cigarettes, by rolling their own. Smoke shops in NYC enable this circumventing by providing their customers with automatic cigarette rolling machines. (Gawd, I love free enterprise.)
Here's a brief description of how it works:
Customers select a blend of tobacco leaves, intended to mirror the flavor of their regular brand. Then they feed the tobacco and some paper tubes into the machines, and return to the counter with the finished product to ring up the purchase.
Booyah! This little exploit enables smart-shopper-smokers to leave with a 10-pack carton of cigarettes for $40, whereas a regularly-purchased carton would cost $130, of which $58.50 would account for just some of the taxes. But wait. There's more. Disappointed that one of their their sin-tax cash cows is developing a bit of a plugged udder, NYC's legal department has begun to sue stores for "engaging in blatant tax evasion." You. Cannot. Make. This. Stuff. Up.
NYC's Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, is cited at the very bottom of the piece, and his sentiment speaks volumes.
Farley also defended the city's high taxes on cigarettes, saying that studies had shown that they are pressuring people into quitting, or not taking up the habit, and thereby saving lives.
In other words, "when we tax you for habits we don't like, we're saving you from yourself!" Well then, that certainly makes me feel better.