The reason a ten-pack carton of cigarettes can go for as little as $40 in the state of New York, despite the $4.35-a-pack tax, is that sovereign Indian nations have started packaging their own tobacco. Governor Cuomo, not to mention non-Native American convenience stores and cigarette brands, are not pleased, and claim the practice is a form of tax evasion, like those roll-your-own shops that started popping up and were quickly dealt with. Even the tribes don’t love their new business, but it’s working for now.
“It’s sort of a shame that it has to be cigarettes, which is very distasteful to us,” explained one tribe leader. “Yet at the same time, the principle is the same, if we were manufacturing whatever it was.” Tribes around the state have upped their production, buying factories and creating their own brands, rather than fighting over taxation of name brands sold on reservations. The state government, the New York Times reports, is frustrated, but has not yet moved to enforce their interpretation of the rules.
For those customers in the vicinity, little matters besides cheap smokes, and the tribes see it as just working to survive. “We tried poverty for 200 years,” said the leader of the Oneida Indian Nation. “We decided to try something different.”