Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Insanity of Prohibition

First we had alcohol prohibition by way of a constitutional amendment. It only took a few years to see first hand the folly and unexpected consequences and reversed the law. Immediately thereafter, drug prohibition, minus the bothersome constitutional amendment, arrived and made the booze ban look like child's play. Still with us today, drug prohibition has caused even more harm to our society than the original concept of the alcohol ban, with overflowing prisons, corrupt police and courts, not to mention the dismantling of the bill of rights under the guise of allegedly "saving the children". Some of the more insidious features of prohibition is the lack of true market controls and distribution controls. A basic weed like marijuana now carries a black market value more than that of gold, solely due to prohibition.

Chapter three in our insane policies toward "bad things that will hurt the children" is cigarette prohibition. Although cigs are technically not prohibited, the extreme taxes on the "coffin nails" has essentially the same consequence as prohibition. For example:

Cheap Cigarettes In South Carolina Lure Smugglers

Nov. 20--South Carolina offers the cheapest smokes in the nation -- a fact federal officials say will make it a magnet for black market cigarette runners.

New York officials say the Palmetto State already is the source of cigarettes smuggled illegally into that state.

But S.C. officials say they see no evidence that cigarette smuggling is a problem in the state. In any event, they add, it's not South Carolina's problem, and they don't intend to make it tougher for the illicit trade.

More than simply a gangster cliche straight out of "The Sopranos," cigarette trafficking is a multimillion-dollar business that shows little sign of slowing down.

The reasons are simple. Profit margins are huge, the risk of getting caught is minimal, and punishment can be mild compared with penalties for other crimes.

At 7 cents a pack, cigarette taxes in South Carolina are the lowest in the nation.

Taxes in other states and cities are far higher, making smuggling a profitable business.

For example, the sales tax alone on a pack of cigarettes in New York City is $3 compared with 7 cents in South Carolina.

Smugglers make money by buying cigarettes in South Carolina -- or another low-tax state -- and reselling them in a high-tax state for a price lower than that state's prevailing price, including its taxes.

So, the difference in cost from South Carolina to New York City -- almost $30,000 for, say, 1,000 cartons -- would leave plenty of room for a hefty profit, even with the cost of transporting the cigarettes.

"The lower the tax, the bigger the profit," said ATF's Woodham. "If you have organized criminals that would benefit financially from moving their operations to another state, it's only common sense that they would do that."

"common sense"...right! as though the concept of prohibition is rife with common sense??? Examples of the damage done by drug/cigarette prohibition is everywhere, not the least of which is the obscene profits going through the hands of terrorists, all because of the simplistic, dishonest and damaging policies regulating personal behavior. Prohibition was a disaster the first time and it's an even bigger disaster today.

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