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'Loosies' Cigarette Sales Could Spark Gang Conflict, Alderman Says

By  Stephanie Lulay and Ted Cox | October 7, 2015 9:25am | Updated on October 7, 2015 9:36am

"79th Street Anonymous" sells cigarettes outside a gas station in Auburn Gresham in this file photo.
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

CITY HALL — An alderman is warning that the sale of so-called "loosies" — single cigarettes — on the street has the potential of sparking gang wars in the city.

At a City Hall budget hearing Tuesday, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) warned of gangs having turf battles over who was entitled to sell loose, untaxed cigarette on various street corners.

"You're gonna have a gang war over loose cigarettes," Burnett said. "It's one of those things we need to pay attention to or somebody's gonna get hurt."

Burnett's ward includes parts of the West Loop, the United Center area, Greektown, Garfield Park, the Near North Side, Old Town, West Humboldt Park, West Town, the Medical District and Goose Island.

The practice is not limited to poorer neighborhoods, as loosies can be seen being sold outside bars in trendier neighborhoods, as well.

In 2013, in vowing to crack down on the practice, the city said Chicago police had arrested some 800 people for selling loosies that year and issued 490 citations at $1,000 each.

In Chicago, where a pack of 20 cigarettes can cost more than $10, loosies typically sell for 50 cents to more than a dollar each. Many loosies come from illegal, untaxed cartons, or cigarettes smuggled in from states with lower tobacco taxes.

The Tax Foundation estimates that as much as 20 percent of cigarettes sold in Illinois are black market, blaming high taxes here.


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