Black-Market Sales Growing

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Black-Market Sales Growing

NEW YORK -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg may have helped raise the price of a pack of cigarettes to $7.50 and the City Council may be trying to ban smoking everywhere, but an undercover report by The New York Post found that it is easy to buy cheap cigarettes from illegal vendors at numerous locations across the city.

Popular brands can be bought on the streets for as little as $5 a pack ? $2 to $3 less than tax-stamped packets being offered by stores and bodegas complying with the city and state's six-week-old tax increase, which went from 8 cents a pack to $1.50.

To snuff out black-market cigarette sales, the New York City Police Department has formed a Cigarette Interdiction Group and said it is starting to arrest violators of the law, the report said. But many illegal cigarette sellers are small-time operators who are hard to catch because of their low profiles and mobility.

Last week, The Post was able to buy black-market product in several locations throughout the city in a matter of minutes. Asked about the extent of the bootlegging and his clientele, a seller in Brooklyn laughed. "There's a lot of us out here ... but we don't sell to kids," he said.

Convenience store owners in the city are fuming that bootleggers are selling right outside their stores and have demanded the NYPD's new cigarette squad increase its patrols. "We're afraid if all this illegal activity continues, we're going to be forced to give back our license," Jose Fernandez, operator of Cristian Deli in The Bronx, told The Post.

ABOVE: New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg raised the city's tobacco tax on cigarettes to $1.50 per pack.