Prisoners pay $30 for a smoke in NYC

Inmates are paying a hefty price on the black market after the city banned cigarettes in jails. The ban is taxing city resources as well.

By Kim Peterson May 7, 2013 12:25PM
Image: Jail © CorbisRikers Island may be home to the most expensive cigarettes in the world. Prisoners are paying $30 for a single cigarette, and full packs can cost up to $200, according to The New York Daily News.

A vibrant black market for cigarettes has developed ever since Mayor Mike Bloomberg banned smoking in jails a decade ago. The situation is so bad that the Department of Correction now brings in dogs to sniff out tobacco in cells.

The dogs don't go into rooms used by prison workers, however, after correctional officers complained that they shouldn't be treated like inmates, The Daily News reports.

Banning cigarettes in jail has most likely led to healthier inmates. And it probably makes life in prison more uncomfortable for some.

But the cost of the ban, from a city resources perspective, has been striking. The number of busts for illegal cigarettes, drugs and blades has risen by 40% in three years, and tobacco violations make up about 16% of the total, The Daily News reports. The Bronx district attorney's office is requesting more money to handle the heavy caseload.

The black market for cigarettes isn't just confined to jails, either. New York's sky-high cigarette tax is leading tobacco retailers to buy their smokes on the black market, The Associated Press reports. An AP reporter walking around the Bronx recently found discarded packs with a tax stamp from Virginia, or with no tax stamp at all.

City authorities inspected some 1,100 licensed tobacco retailers last year and found that about half had cigarettes that were purchased on the black market.

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May 7, 2013 12:45PM
I'm sure Bloomberg's relatives are profiting here just like they do on Wall Street.
May 7, 2013 1:53PM
Hmmmmm. $30. I am just wondering how an inmate in prison even has $30 AND unless the guards/wardens are in on it HOW tobacco is even getting in. Yeah I know I am being naive but, seems there is a bigger problem than just whether smokes are high priced
May 7, 2013 3:06PM
When the city finds itself with little to no revenue from cigarette taxes, after everyone turns to the black market or outside markets to get their smokes, what will NYC try and tax to make up the difference. Or will they just pump billions more into "enforcement" of small business owners and get their money in fines and penalties?. So when store owners refuse to even stock cigarettes to avoid the whole issue, what will the city do then. To hell with all you anti-smoking nazi's trying to push your activism on legal, law abiding citizens with your ridiculous social causes. If you don't want to breath second hand smoke, move the f#ck away from me then. I'm not asking you to pay for my health care, my plan works just fine and if i need to utilize it, it will be the first time so i will have earned my doctor visit costs. I am tired of being dictated to by a bunch of overly sensitive hypocondriacs. Bllomberg can go eat a dick. 
May 7, 2013 1:41PM
Yo idiots your in Jail ! Its not suppose to be nice !
May 7, 2013 3:15PM
The prison guards are probably the ones selling cigs to the inmates at the highly profitable price of $30 apiece.
May 7, 2013 1:46PM

This is just wrong to let one man have this type of control over anyone, including inmates. Let them smoke in a designated area for gods sake. I am sure being there is punishment enough.

May 7, 2013 1:34PM
plain an dsimple? bloomberg is anti american a nd a  nazi, and a total jerk and a loser and a idiot,   he is tryig be like hitler  and his SS,tryign to tell  free americans how to eat and drink and live, he can  go to h  e l  l, i dont care what he says, i wouldnt ever  follow one of his  anti american freedom laws,in fact i might just try  to smuggle  60 oz cokes in to nyc ,
May 7, 2013 3:12PM
May 7, 2013 3:32PM
let them keep smoking it will be cheaper on all of us who pay taxes to have to feed these idiots jeez let them smoke all they want!!!! politics ugh
May 7, 2013 3:48PM
I'm starting to notice a trend with Mayor Bloomberg.  He has many good intentions (example: banning high capacity soda) that either have no basis on reality or just plain backfire (like cigarettes).  Maybe, New York, it's time to vote for someone else?
May 7, 2013 3:43PM
Just another problem created by lawmakers and it is spreading to the general public, all cigarette tax money will have to go to law enforcement to combat crime. Time to start taxing fast foods and add some more misery to the American peoples pocket.
May 7, 2013 4:52PM

Wouldn't it be more prudent to let the inmates die off faster?

Jun 24, 2013 11:27PM

"Sin" taxing has raised the cost of cigarettes so that many who need them can't afford them.  Given nicotine’s scientifically verified benefit to some individuals’ successful daily functioning, our most charitable act for many of the less fortunate might be gifting cigarettes to them. The CHIPRA children's health care program utterly depends on tobacco taxation, so "If you're not buying cigarettes, then What Kind of Citizen ARE You?"  If you please, here's my anti-tobacco-tax case in a foot-stomper song:
May 7, 2013 3:30PM
Well,you are in jail,you are being punished.
May 7, 2013 2:55PM
Every day, somewhere in a prison, an inmate gets assaulted over cigarettes. They are used for barter or currency for other items. If there are no cigarettes in prison, there will be less fights.
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