Right on the edge, anyway, and tipping further all the time. Legislative proposals making the rounds in Congress [stored] will ultimately either halt US Post Office delivery of tobacco products or, more likely, try to make a tax enforcing Cigarette Gestapo out of all our mailmen. Penalties for seeking fair tobacco prices will be grave. There is plenty more info about this on the internet for those interested. Smart bargain seekers in the US stopped using mail order years ago anyway. Quislings amongst the dealers and various other hassles made this unattractive.
Big Tobacco brands ordered from parts of the old USSR and elsewhere came at reasonable prices, and can still be gotten, but one risks crook merchants, customs hassles, and increasing mailman scrutiny. All but the customs problem afflicts buying by mail from Indian reservations and both real and sham Indian dealers have reported some customers to tax officials. Unfortunates who ordered from non-Indian dealers located in low tax states often got finked on by the sellers, or by the private shippers such as UPS, before the private delivery companies started rejecting all tobacco shipments.
The idea has been that you can buy bargain smokes legally but are expected to notify tax authorities that you did so and then pony up to them. It’s vastly surprising, of course, that consumers either didn’t know this or else generally chose not to be so obliging to their thieving governments. The government is out to get you, and probably will sooner or later, if you buy by mail order. That has been the case for some time. Now the risk grows deeper.
Buying in person with cash in low-tax areas of the US ventures into a grey legal area. How many cartons you can transport from one jurisdiction to another without penalty varies from place to place. More than a few cartons could get you in trouble almost anywhere. Of course we hear of those who were careful and didn’t get caught.
Wise smokers have not bought Big Tobacco brands within the USA, because of the Master Settlement gouge, for more than a decade. Good reports have been voiced about lesser-known cigarette brands such as DTC, Wave, First Class, and Seneca. Top-quality ciggies could be bought at Indian reservations for under ten bucks per carton a couple of years ago. (In the US, a pack is twenty ciggies, a carton is ten packs.)
Because of Indian price-fixing schemes, and the recent SCHIP increase, you’ll now pay a bit more than twenty for the same carton. It’s worth noting that every “legal” US cigarette purchase includes federal tax. That’s the case even on Indian reservations, where you may avoid state tax, and MSA premiums on Indian brands. You still pay Uncle Sam.
A good guess is that, before long, FDA regulation will add perhaps a buck and a half to the cost of every “legal” cigarette pack sale. It could be more or a little less but not much less. The regulation may be more than can be managed by the smaller companies so those lesser-known brands may disappear altogether. Even if they don’t disappear you won’t see them available anywhere for much less than forty bucks a carton. They won’t taste very good either. None of the adulterated FDA ciggies will taste very good. Depending on where you live a carton at your local grocery may cost close to a hundred bucks now. It’s gonna be more soon. Your state is furthermore going to keep raising its tax astronomically, as will the feds, whenever its suits them.
The real and fair retail price of a carton of cigarettes is under eight bucks. The real and fair retail price of an individually purchased pack is under a buck. All the rest is tax and confiscatory premiums. Anybody who pays as much as four bucks for a pack of cigarettes is a damned fool. There are lots of damned fools in the world but there are lots of smart folks too.
That new legislation is going under the ambitious name of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act of 2009. Something like it will pass pretty soon. It has to. Other Fascistic enforcement measures also have to appear. A taxed price that doubles the real price of cigarettes can be sustainable. More than that guarantees an underground market: the risk is sufficiently offset by the price differential. Until now legal, or quasi-legal sales, fell within double the real price. That’s no longer so. That means the out-and-out black market will take over. It’s already in operation but will balloon exponentially under the new conditions.
Economic prohibition is effective Prohibition and it’s here now. Ever more bans on where one can smoke are still coming too. Laws like those in the most hysterical Californian localities are coming to your home town soon. You are going to be buying your cigarettes from the fellows who sell dope. You are going to smoke them in bathrooms and behind closed curtains, or increasingly, in the altogether illegal “smokeasy” bars that are appearing in city after city. "Proper" society will hate smokers more and ever more. Rebel society will smoke more and ever more.
Mail order’s a thing of the past. No more trips to the reservation from now on. What you’re going to see in the US are brand name smokes smuggled from anywhere between Mexico and Moldova competing with local bootleg and Asian-made brand name counterfeits. This is the sort of pattern we’ve seen wherever prices grow highest, such as in Canada, Britain, or Iran (where the black market is eighty per cent of the total market.)
US black market prices will not be so low as one finds in Canada where Indians operate with greater freedom. You’ll be able to get black market cigarettes of extremely variable quality for about twenty bucks a carton if you shop. Many American smokers and feisty entrepreneurs will grow their own tobacco just as their grandfathers brewed beer.
That’s where we are. The Roaring Twenty-first Century is here, to stay, until government returns to its senses. Is there any chance the FDA and other agencies will awake to this or to the need for affordable, high quality tobacco products, including properly formulated reduced-risk cigarettes? Not likely. Not before they insure decades of Hell. Not probably before we see absolute Prohibition imposed and until that fails very miserably. Watch and see. Look back at what we’ve been warning of here at FORCES since 1995. It’s all been coming, it came, and it is going where it will.