Avuncular former Mayor and noted political soothsayer Willie Brown has seen the future of California's tobacco trade, and it is about to go underground. With Proposition 29 on the ballot tomorrow*, Willie believes voters will approve a $1 increase to the cigarette tax, bringing the state's surcharge on a pack of smokes to a total of $1.87. Proceeds from the hefty new tariff will go to cancer research and programs to help the few people who can still afford smoking to ween themselves off of the cancer sticks — which is nice, but in Willie's World, black market cigarettes are about to become the next profitable street drug. Da Mayor writes:
No sooner does the new tax go into effect, my street contacts tell me, than Indian tribes will open tobacco shops at their casinos, where buyers can escape state taxes and buy cigarettes on the cheap.
Just as quickly, smugglers will start rolling in truckloads of smokes from Nevada, Arizona and Oregon, as street dealers realize there is more money to be made selling hot cigarettes than there is selling dope.
So there you go, filthy smokers. You should probably go ahead and get the number of a reliable cigarette dealer now. Especially if you don't want to be stumbling around 6th and Mission jonesing for a cheap nicotine fix at 2 a.m.
*Reminder: There's a presidential primary election and two ballot measures up for a vote tomorrow.