Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jul 2002
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2002 The Dallas Morning News
Author:  Buford C. Terrell, Houston


Re: "Higher cigarette tax to spur smugglers," July 14.

As your story on new taxes on cigarettes pointed out, these taxes are the 
best thing that has happened to organized crime in years. The mobs that 
have been dying out or that have concentrated on illegal drugs can now get 
fat on smuggled cigarettes.

While users of a commodity will pay reasonable taxes, if those prices are 
too high, a black market will organize to avoid them just like black 
markets provide access to prohibited substances. Even after alcohol 
prohibition ended in this country, bootleggers flourished in some areas 
just for customers not wanting to pay the high taxes.

New York, with already high cigarette taxes, has had a cigarette smuggling 
problem for decades; and the smugglers? The Mafia. Some of the cigarettes 
are purchased in places like North Carolina where the taxes are low, but 
many legitimate shipments are hijacked, resulting in violence, injuries and 

The British now estimate that 40 percent of the cigarettes consumed in 
Britain are smuggled to avoid taxes. Why is there surprise that Ohio and 
Maryland are also having problems?

If you like drug prohibition and drug dealers, you will love high cigarette 
taxes. Organized crime will get rich, street corner dealers (yes, selling 
to children, too) will appear, violent crime will increase, legitimate 
merchants will be hurt, law enforcement costs will increase; but the tax 
revenues will increase much less than expected.

Taxes like this have been proposed for Texas. We should stay out of the 
mess and leave the problems to New York and Great Britain.

Buford C. Terrell, Houston
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