Bbc news — cuba to withdraw cheap cigarettes for elderly

Cuba’s elderly will no longer be entitled to state subsidised cigarettes, the government has said.

All Cubans 55 or older are allocated four packs of cigarettes a month for about 25% the normal price, but this privilege is being ended in September.

The measure is President Raul Castro’s latest attempt to cut the communist state’s spending.

The island has been hit hard by the global economic downturn and the long term US trade embargo.

A statement in the government run Granma newspaper said the move was «part of the steps gradually being applied to eliminate subsidies». The health benefits were not mentioned.

Cigarettes «are not a primary necessity,» it said.

Some elderly non smokers were taking their cut price cigarettes and re selling them to boost their meagre pensions, says the BBC’s Michael Voss in Havana.

«I’m insulted because it’s another thing they are taking away from us,» said Angela Jimenez, a 64 year old who receives a monthly pension of about $10 ( 6.50).

She said she will now have to quit smoking because she won’t be able to afford the normal price of about $0.33 a pack.

Cigarettes are the latest item to be removed from ration books. Subsidised peas and potatoes were eliminated in November.

Earlier in August Mr Castro said the role of the state would be reduced in some areas, to cut the «overloaded» state budget.

He said more workers would be allowed to be self employed or to set up small businesses.

Terrorists may get money from regional, cheap cigarette smuggling ring: ray kelly — ny daily news

Cooper Booth President Barry Margolis did not return calls seeking comment.

A portion of the profit was based on the difference in cigarette taxes in Virginia, where they are 30 cents per pack, and New York, where they are $5.85 per pack.

The Ramadans purchased their cigarettes for $40 per carton and sold to their distributors for $50 a carton. They, in turn, sold to bodegas for $60 a carton a huge discount from the usual $120 cost per carton, which includes taxes.

The brothers paid the Virginia tax with the promise that they d sell only in Virginia, but instead shipped their wares to New York. They affixed fake tax stamps to the packs but sold them to distributors tax free greatly reducing the normal New York price of $12 per pack.

Several times a week, Adel Abuzahrieh, 42, of Brooklyn, drove a white box truck covered in graffiti from New York to meet the brothers in Delaware, authorities said.

He d drop off black garbage bags filled with cash and leave with thousands of cartons of cigarettes up to 20,000 a week, prosecutors say. The brothers would show up at small local banks with beer coolers filled with cash to deposit.

Abuzahrieh always took the same return route and met distributors in parking lots behind malls and Home Depots. Distributors loaded boxes of cartons into car trunks, then began the process of selling them directly to bodegas or to resellers, who d do the same.

The untaxed packs were offered to smokers at a discount at Arab markets and grocery stores in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx.

All the defendants pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn Supreme on Thursday and were held on bails ranging from $75,000 to $500,000.

Lamis Dee, a lawyer for Odeh and two other defendants, brought up recent accusations about the NYPD spying on Muslims and claimed Kelly was blowing a simple untaxed cigarette case into something it s not.

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