Most people think of the F in ATF, not realizing that they have jurisdiction over T. And, just like there are Operation Gunrunner (“Fast and Furious”) clusterfucks that grow out of F, there is now a similar T-related scandal.
And what set it all off?
The basics of cigarette smuggling are simple. Each state sets its tobacco taxes. Buying cigarettes in low-tax states, like Virginia, and secretly selling them in higher-tax states, like New York, generates large profits. More complicated schemes have shipped cigarettes to Indian reservations, where they are not taxed, then rerouted them for sale on the black market.
A.T.F. agents try to disrupt these networks. Often that means working with informants to buy and sell tobacco on the black market, much the way agents pose as drug dealers to investigate cartels.
This is why the NYPD was so interested in Eric Garner, and the very questionable accost of him in July 2014 caused his death.
Obvious solution? Tobacco taxation should be an exclusively Federal power. Just as I think income taxation should be an exclusively Federal power.