Tom Humphrey captured the angst of Tennessee smokers now being targeted by Department of Revenue agents for buying cheaper cigarettes in neighboring states (“Cigarette surveillance program begins today,” Sept. 27).
Agents are threatening to confiscate the vehicles of residents who purchase more than two cartons of cigarettes and then cross state lines.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Customs Service has confirmed that “tobacco smuggling is a global, multibillion-dollar problem that involves any number of criminal organizations, ranging from terrorists to money launderers to drug smugglers.”
Tennessee would rather persecute individual smokers who cross state lines to save money instead of realizing that these small-time arrests do nothing to eradicate the domestic black market for cigarette sales. This black market will only expand as state revenue agents spend their time chasing low-income smokers while allowing organized crime’s wealthy smugglers to operate with impunity.
Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager for The Heartland Institute.