Why Do Democrats Want To Create More Eric Garners?
The 2014 killing of Eric Garner by a New York City police officer is an example of how enforcement of even petty laws (in this case, tobacco taxes) can be lethal. Peddling a few loose cigarettes in defiance of the government might carry a death sentence when cops impose the state’s will. So, why are Democrats pushing for higher cigarette taxes which will fuel an even larger black market and more confrontations with members of the public who seek relief from the government’s endless demands? That question demands an answer as New York City prepares for a new inquiry into Garner’s death.
“Millions of Americans who smoke could soon see an increase in their prices, as Democrats target tobacco and nicotine to help finance their $3.5 trillion economic package,” the Washington Post reported last month.
The hike would have an even bigger effect than supporters suggest, since it also elevates state tobacco taxes.
“When states tax tobacco products by price, the tax on the product will pyramid since the federal tax is levied at the manufacturer level and the state tax is levied at distribution level,” explains Ulrik Boesen for the Tax Foundation. “In effect, the state tax base includes the federal tax and becomes a tax on a tax.”
Proponents of the scheme hope it will raise $100 billion to fund the (thankfully) stalled big-government bill. But they also claim higher taxes will pressure nicotine fans to quit (and there goes that revenue!).
“The record is clear that there’s a stunning correlation between increased cigarette prices and reduced consumption over the decades, with federal and state tax hikes on tobacco playing a key role,” insists Marie Cocco, a health policy flack. She claims increasing the government’s take will “raise revenue, reduce tobacco use and, over time, holds the potential to save billions in health care costs.”
Maybe higher taxes do correlate with lower tobacco use. They definitely correlate with vigorous black markets patronized by customers looking for prices that haven’t been sent through the roof by the government’s appetite.
“In 2018, New York was the highest net importer of smuggled cigarettes, totaling 53.2 percent of total cigarette consumption in the state,” notes the Tax Foundation’s Boesen. “New York also has one of the highest state cigarette taxes ($4.35 per pack), not counting the additional loca
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