Last summer Eric Garner died after a New York cop put him in a chokehold. His crime was selling “loosies”, or untaxed cigarettes. Smuggling is common in New York: 58% of cigarettes smoked in the state are contraband.
The reason is that tobacco taxes are high: a pack of 20 costs $US13 in New York, compared with $US5 in Missouri, the state with the cheapest gaspers. A recent report found that illicit smokes are more than 20% of total consumption in 15 states.
There are sound public-health reasons for taxing tobacco but as the map shows, the higher the taxes, the bigger the black market.