Add another chapter to the long and voluminous history of government’s failed “Vice Wars.” Just like Prohibition and the so-called “War on Drugs,” the ongoing cigarette crackdown in both the United States and Canada has not only failed to achieve its objective, but it is creating bureaucracies that threaten liberty and prosperity as well as spawning a violent subculture that puts lives at risk on both sides of the border.
And the more this “sin” tax is raised, the more lucrative profits from contraband cigarettes become – adding fuel to an already-volatile conflagration.
Did we really expect government to do anything differently, though? After all, we’re dealing with a government culture that continues to operate under the fatally-flawed assumption that anything can be solved simply by borrowing and spending more tax dollars. In fact, in today’s world unsustainable borrowing and spending itself can be solved by – you guessed it – additional borrowing and spending, all in the name of “economic development.” Is it at all surprising, then, to discover that our politicians are resorting to the same failed “solutions” of the past in prosecuting their war on cigarette smoking?
Just keep raising taxes and pouring more money into government, right? What could possibly go wrong?
For starters, the same vicious cycle that brought us Al Capone and his band of murderous thugs in the 1920s – and which made Pablo Escobar one of the richest men in the world in the 1990s – will be back for another bite at the taxpayer-funded apple. Just last month in Virginia, for example, a contraband cigarette smuggler pleaded guilty in court of hiring a hit man to murder two people that he suspected of stealing his bootleg cigarettes. According to media reports, the man’s gang was hoping to make a cool $1 million by selling nearly 400,000 cartons of cigarettes in New York City – where taxes alone on a pack of smokes are $4.25. Amazingly, New York lawmakers are seeking to add another $1 to this already obscene amount, an increase which will only fuel additional bootlegging – and additional violence.
William Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government. He has spent his career working in political strategy and public affairs for various causes and organizations.