Expert raises concerns cig. tax could increase smuggling

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Aug 19, 2014 4:00 AM

(Harrisburg) -- A former assistant director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says if state lawmakers approve a new cigarette tax for Philadelphia, smuggling could become a problem.

Richard Marianos worked for more than twenty years on investigations of gangs and firearm trafficking operations, among other things.

He believes that if lawmakers approve a $2 per pack tax as proposed, criminals will see an opportunity to sell cigarettes illegally on the streets.

"They're being sold on the black market to avoid taxes or they're being sold on the black market to increase more criminal revenue and support more parts of a criminal organization."

"They will take the profit margin and they can invest more money in their narcotics trade, they can trade for more guns, and they can finance more criminal activity for the amount of money that they would be making."

Marianos says increased penalties and more comprehensive laws could help deter smuggling.

The right-leaning Tax Foundation ranks Pennsylvania 31st in the nation for cigarette smuggling, with a single percentage point of cigarettes sold in the state changing hands illegally.

Despite bipartisan support among lawmakers, a cigarette tax hasn't been passed, largely because of pet projects attached to the bill.

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