An article that appeared in Monday’s New York Times discussed something absolutely fascinating to me. I had no idea of the problems that the New York City cigarette tax has created for so many New York residents.

According to the article, an average pack of smokes now costs $12.50 in Midtown Manhattan, a price that is outrageous. Even with the salary premiums that New Yorkers enjoy when compared with other parts of the country, such a high price is going to price people out of the habit…or should price people out. But instead, it simply turns them to illegal means. And so a brisk little cottage industry of selling “loosies”, or loose cigarettes (one for 75 cents or two for a dollar), has sprung up around the city.

Of course, there’s a problem with this: the “man” wants his taxes. So, naturally, every untaxed tobacco sale is a misdemeanor offense for both the seller and the purchaser. And many people thus find themselves in an untenable position: while they are addicted to the cigarettes, they can’t afford them; and so their choice is to either cut other vital needs from already drum-tight budgets or break the law in order to get one more fix.
The purveyor of loose cigarettes who was interviewed for this article, a guy who uses the moniker “Lonnie Loosie”, has observed this phenomenon, and gave what I think is a money quote on the bound will:
In his time, [Lonnie Loosie] has learned a lot about smokers’ habits. He sometimes hears from customers who explain to him they are quitting as they buy two final loosies.

“A lot of them believe they are quitting,” he said, “but they come back every day.”