NYC cigarette tax fight hampered by low fines

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Associated Press

Posted on May 5, 2013 at 8:04 AM

Updated Monday, May 6 at 12:02 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's war on smoking is being undercut by light penalties for merchants caught selling cigarettes smuggled in from low-tax states.

Right now, shops that evade the nation's highest cigarette taxes by buying untaxed inventory from bootleggers face fines and penalties of around $150 per carton.

That will change in June, when the penalty goes up to $600.

But some city officials say that's still not high enough.

Of the 1,105 retailers inspected by the city sheriff last year, 586 were selling untaxed, or under-taxed, cigarettes.

Many of those contraband packs were trucked up from Virginia. Each pack there carries 30 cents in taxes, compared to $5.85 in New York City.

The City Council is considering a bill that would create a fine of $2,000 for selling untaxed cigarettes.

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