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Drug, Gun Smugglers Adding Cigarettes

From USA Today:

Violent criminals expand into cigarettes

By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
April 17, 2011

A recent wave of state tobacco tax increases, designed to pump revenue into cash-strapped local governments, is inspiring an increasingly dangerous cigarette smuggling industry where big profits lure violent criminal gangs and drug traffickers into the booming illegal market, according to law enforcement officials and court records.

Larry Penninger, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ tobacco diversion unit, says investigations and prosecutions involving tobacco trafficking have been increasing as smugglers flood high-tax states with cigarettes from low-tax states.

From 2007 to last year, 27 states raised their cigarette taxes, according to Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which closely tracks tobacco tax rates across the country. Mackinac describes tobacco smuggling as an “unintended consequence of high cigarette taxes.”

And it’s all so unpredictable. (Just kidding, of course.)

There is so much illicit money to be made, Penninger says, that some drug and weapon trafficking organizations are adding tobacco to their product lines to boost profits. For example, in low-tax states such as Virginia, where cigarettes cost about $4.50 a pack, smugglers can sell a truckload (typically 800 cases) in New York at $13 a pack. New York is the highest tobacco taxing jurisdiction in the country.

Smuggling costs states and the government about $5 billion, according to U.S. government estimates. “Everybody out there (involved in illegal trafficking operations) is tapping into tobacco,’’ Penninger says.

Even those who smuggle illegal aliens? – Then this might be just the thing to make our government finally crack down on them.

Since 9/11, much of federal law enforcement has focused on terrorism. But tobacco smuggling is attracting fresh interest

Well, which is the bigger threat, at least to the bureaucratic mind?

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, April 18th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Drug, Gun Smugglers Adding Cigarettes”

  1. Astravogel says:

    Many of our Founding Fathers’ fortunes were
    based on smuggling. Might these modern ones
    be our new leadership in formation?

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