Skip to content

Eric Garner Arrest Linked to Excessive Cigarette Taxes

2 min readBy: Scott Drenkard

The recent death of Eric Garner after an incident with New York police has recently made headlines and sparked controversy about excessive force and police practices. Sources report that police and prosecutors are investigating the use of a chokehold by an officer in the process of detaining Garner.

Garner was in the process of being arrested on charges of illegally selling cigarettes, a crime that is only profitable because cigarettes are taxed at such exorbitant rates in New York City ($5.85 per pack in state and local taxes). Reason’s Hit and Run Blog covered this well:

We should be concerned that the reason why the police swarmed Garner in the first place is getting lost. He allegedly possessed "untaxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. ed cigarettes." That is it. There is this press focus on how the police took Garner down, and the problem with that focus is the question, "Well, what do you do when a 400-pound man refuses to cooperate when you try to arrest him?" Or to put it another way: Would there be an objection to police using a chokehold to take down and subdue man who was engaged in violent activity harming others? Because you know that's going to be part of the defense of this behavior.

There needs to be more attention on the absurd reason that a pack of police officers was on top of Garner in the first place: black market cigarettes. It's a crime that only takes place because of the city's own oppressive taxation system. It's a crime that happens when the city makes it too hard for people (especially poor people, of course) to get what they want legally.

For now, we can put this tragic incident in with the many other unfortunate episodes of violence associated with cigarette smuggling.

Follow Scott on Twitter.