While Alan Greenspan noted, “Whatever you tax, you get less of,” the New York legislature seems to not understand. In one of the least shocking reports I’ve seen, the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) noted that the state is losing $1.7 billion of tax revenue each year and 6,700 jobs because of cigarette tax evasion. Why would this be?

New Yorkers who can buy cigarettes elsewhere. The study found that many are buying cigarettes from surrounding states, military bases, Indian reservations, and duty free shops. Add in smuggling from low-tax states (there’s undoubtedly a black market) and you have tax avoidance.

Meanwhile, Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) is conducting cigarette raids to enforce the $2 county cigarette tax. A picture is coming into my mind, that of prohibition, where organized crime prospered when alcohol was banned. I’m sure the similarities are just superficial…or maybe they’re not.

Of course, the NYACS would like New York to begin raids like those in Chicago; after all, convenience stores that are obeying the law stand to sell more cigarettes than most other locations. Still, the unintended consequences of increased taxes are obvious to most of us.