A few blocks north, another man sells cigarettes near a check-cashing storefront. Add to these a few roving vendors who poach territory when they can.
Itinerant cigarette vendors have long been a fixture in some parts of the city, like bodegas that sell individual cigarettes in violation of state law. But with cigarette prices up and the number of smoke-friendly places down, the black market for loosies is now thriving on the streets.
The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has outlawed smoking in restaurants, bars and playgrounds, and outside hospital entrances. Even city parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas will soon be off limits to smokers. Then there have been successive rounds of taxes — the most recent one, a $1.60 rise in the state tax in July — that raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to $12.50 at many Midtown newsstands.
“The tax went up, and we started selling 10 times as much,” Mr. Warner said. “Bloomberg thinks he’s stopping people from smoking. He’s just turning them onto loosies.”
Mr. Warner and his partners patrol the east side of Eighth Avenue, from 35th to 36th Street. He started out on Seventh Avenue, but eventually moved a block west, in front of Staples at 35th. “You look for the crowd,” he said.
Mr. Warner said he believed that the official price was above what many people were willing or able to pay. As evidence, he noted that his customers included office workers from as far south as 32nd Street and as far north as 40th…