This is in response to the July 31 letter “Legalize loosies” by reader Larry Penner. The author believes “law enforcement authorities should pursue those who commit real crimes against citizens and property rather than enforcing insane laws outlawing the sale of individual cigarettes.”
Selling “loosies” is a violation of both NYC (unlicensed vending) and NYS (the sale of untaxed tobacco) laws designed to make regulated tobacco products less accessible and less attractive to youth. Every day nearly 3,800 kids try their first cigarette and 1,000 kids become daily smokers. Many will become addicted before they are old enough to understand the risks, and they will ultimately die of tobacco-related diseases.
Although law enforcement resources aimed toward drugs, gang violence and terrorism are obviously higher on the priority list, should the NYPD (and other combined enforcement resources) look the other way while kids continue to become addicted to tobacco products as easily as they can buy a bag of M&Ms?
A more efficient, combined agency effort is needed to stop the selling of loosies but more so is the next step up in the pipeline that illegally brings in cigarettes from Virginia and Missouri where taxes are minimal compared to NYC. The end result must be to remove kids from having easy access to smokes before they are 21 and become addicted, candidates for lung cancer and a lifetime of misery.
Restricting the sale of loosies is just one facet of an effective tobacco control program that is needed to denormalize smoking and cut down on the 480,000 smoking-related deaths per year in this country. To have an effective program, not only do you need to have a highly visible multimedia education campaign that will reach adolescents in a way to neutralize the $8.4 billion annual advertising campaign of the tobacco industry to recruit their next replacement generation, but a program that is designed to maintain and incrementally increase tobacco taxes on federal, state and local levels, and strictly enforce minimum purchase age and packaging of tobacco products (including the restriction of loosies).