A pack of Newports
on a roll, hold the roll
When the traditional food stamp system1 was replaced by the EBT debit card, it became harder for recipients to abuse the system to buy disallowed items (beer, cigarettes, weed, sex). The old system required the merchant to check the food stamp booklet for consecutive serial numbers2, but loose stamps could still be used at less reputable places. The new system requires a bit more secrecy and legerdemain. The transaction goes into the EBT system as a $6 hero sandwich, but only the Newports change hands.3
1 - Aid for lower income families and especially single women with children. A favorite target for political battles, but ultimately a necessary program.
2 - Food stamps were in various denominations and used to come in booklets, like travelers checks. The stamps themselves were numbered, like currency, and had pretty pictures of grain and farmers on them. Merchants were supposed to accept food stamps only directly out of the booklet, i.e. loose stamps should have been no good. However, a black market developed and illicit use was possible.
3 - The new card system looks like it works much like my company's gas card or a plain debit card. The bill gets tallied up, then you swipe your card and enter your PIN on a little keypad.