Wanna make a quick $1,944,000? Buy a truckload of cigarettes in Virginia and sell them in New York.
Yeah, it’s illegal. But that’s how much can be made from selling a tractor trailer’s worth (that’s 800 cases, each holding 600 packs of cigarettes) of low-tax Virginia cigarettes in high-tax New York, based on estimates from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
And that’s exactly what criminals are doing, according to a story posted on CNN.com
In 2011, more than 60 percent of all cigarettes sold in New York were smuggled in from another state, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank. That’s up from about 36 percent in 2006.
It’s not just happening in New York. Mackinac says 15 states have smuggling rates that top 20 percent. Add in counterfeit cigarettes from overseas, and ATF estimates the lost government revenue at more than $5 billion a year.
Mackinac and others pin the blame on rising state taxes, and say things could get even worse if President Obama’s proposed 94-cent-a-pack cigarette tax hike goes through. Anti-smoking groups say the smuggling numbers are inflated, and that the public health benefits of fewer smokers – the ones dissuaded by pricey packs – far outweigh any lost revenue or other effects of smuggling.