Comptroller Addresses Cigarette Smuggling In Worcester County - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Comptroller Addresses Cigarette Smuggling In Worcester County

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WORCESTER CO, Md. - The Maryland State Comptroller was in Snow Hill Wednesday, recognizing local law enforcement for cracking down on what he calls a growing financial and public safety concern.  It's not just about taking a few boxes of cigarettes across state lines, cigarette smuggling can cost the state of Maryland millions, and Delmarva is the perfect place for this to happen.

During his visit to Delmarva, the Comptroller's office seized just over 26 thousand dollars worth of cigarettes from a car in the Pockmarked area, and Peter Franchot says this is just the tip of the iceberg.
    
According to Maryland State Police, Berlin Barrack Commander Earl Starner, "certainly we have increased our focus here in Worcester County and part of the reason is smugglers are traveling north and south up and down our major highways."

They're selling cigarettes in states like Maryland and New York below market value, and it all comes down to taxes.  Marylanders pay $2.00 per pack, in Delaware, it's $1.60, but Virginia has the 50th lowest cigarette tax in the nation at just 30 cent per pack tacked on to the cost of tobacco products in the state.

"It's tough economic times I think generate criminal activity, but the key attraction here is that it's so lucrative," says Franchot.  Each year, nearly $2 million in smuggled tobacco products are confiscated, resulting in a nearly $1 million loss in tax revenue for the state.

While it may be a drain on the economy, Franchot fears smuggling is also a public health concern saying "illegal cigarettes sold out of the back of a truck or trunk of a car are much more likely to be open and tainted than the products that are sold from stores."

The state is working on legislation that would place stricter penalties on smuggling.  The Senate recently passed Senate Bill 69, placing a mandatory $150 per carton fine for the first offence and $300 for each after, up from the optional $50 per carton fine currently in place.  The House is expected to vote within a week.

 

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