Example with a context:

The shooting comes at a tense time. Police in New York are being criticized for their tactics following the chokehold death of Eric Garner, who was stopped by police on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Amateur video captured an officer wrapping his arm around Garner's neck and wrestling him to the ground. Garner was heard gasping, "I can't breathe" before he loses consciousness and later dies.

What does loose cigarettes really mean?

  • 6
    Individual cigarettes, taken out of their packet. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 20 '14 at 23:52
  • It is as @Stoney says. Definition 2 in Macmillan, or Definition 4 in Collins. – J.R. Dec 21 '14 at 1:01
  • 1
    The close votes on this question are misguided. This is a classic case of EXOPHORIC REFERENCE where native speakers or teachers don't get why learners don't understand something - because they take their own extra linguistic knowledge of their world (for example, cultural aspects) for granted. If you don't know what 'loose cigarettes' are, they could be loose as in not regulated, loose as in loosely packed with tobacco, loose as in immoral (perhaps with cannabis in), so on and so forth. This question should be left open! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Dec 21 '14 at 23:06
  • @Araucaria perhaps the close votes were a knee-jerk reaction due to the fact that this user constantly asks for word meanings without bothering to report on the research he has done before posting the question. – user6951 Dec 23 '14 at 11:23

It means individually sold cigarettes which have been taken out of their pack.

Where I'm from, and I think in much of the US, they sometimes go by looseys and it is illegal to sell them. Some little shops do anyway.

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