New York’s cigarette price hike will bring the downsides of a quasi-prohibition

The city of New York decided recently to increase the price of a pack of cigarettes to $13, making it one of the most expensive places in the world to buy tobacco. In fact, throughout the years, the East Coast city has been pursuing an aggressive Nanny State policy, ranging even further than just cracking down on smoking.

Once again, U.S. politicians are said to be inspired by high-tax countries in Europe. One thing however should be clear from the European example: anti-tobacco measures are seriously misguided and harmful. Take France for instance: while newly elected president Emmanuel Macron is a strong supporter of the €10 cigarette pack, illicit tobacco trade in the République is on the rise. 1 in 6 cigarettes in France now originates from the black market, making it a million dollar industry.

The larger consequences are more important than lost tax revenue, and are two-fold. On one hand, these cigarettes are either illegally resold, or they are marketed, either transparently or intransparently, as a counterfeited product. Counterfeited tobacco can be highly dangerous, as it is made with papers than continue to burn even if there is no drag on the cigarette (creating high burn risks) and filters out of plastic instead of cotton, creating fumes that are toxic.

These fake products bear enormous risks, as an inquiry for The Sun finds:

“Independent lab analysis carried out for The Sun later revealed one pack of
his [the dealer they got the product from] cigs contained insect droppings, eggs, skin, mites, ‘unknown organic matter’ and a stone.”

An even more concerning effect of this rise in black market sales are the people profiting off this system. According to the French Centre for Terrorism Analysis, a large portion of illicit tobacco trade revenue goes to terrorist groups such as the IRA, al-Qaeda, or ISIS. In an indirect way, the city of New York is promoting a policy which might benefit international terrorism.

The anti-tobacco attitude that governments across the globe have adopted is almost fanatic. It doesn’t account for risks and benefits, but acts out of pure ideology, which makes it comparable to the Clean Living movements of the past centuries. It is even more striking that some political fractions, which have made their dogma all about the “freedom to choose,” somehow reject all sense of that freedom when it comes to habits they personally dislike.

People are aware of the health implications of smoking. From now on, they should make their own decisions.

A policy that unintentionally provides greater financial resources to organised crime and terrorist groups, and that ultimately reduces the safety of tobacco products should be looked at more critically. If New York continues with its stubborn anti-tobacco policy, then the advancements made in the past decades regarding health education will go up in smoke.

This article was first published by Newsmax.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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