Striking a Blow Against Cheap Smokes


The Chicago Tribune has an interesting update on state efforts to collect cigarette taxes from people who buy smokes online. New York, Michigan, Illinois, and other states with high taxes have begun to subpoena sales records from online merchants and send bills to startled smokers. The Tribune cites a Michigan woman who opened an envelope from the state Department of Treasury to find a demand for $4,798 in back taxes ($2 a pack in Michigan) owed by her boyfriend for cigarettes he bought over the Internet. She complains that smokers were not given adequate notice that looking for cigarette bargains on the Internet is illegal and that smokers are being unfairly singled out, given all the people who evade state sales taxes by ordering stuff online. "It's not politically correct for anyone to be a smoker right now," she says, "so they'll come after us."

The Tribune reports that "44 state attorneys general will meet in Washington this month to discuss the problem of tobacco sales over the Net." Maybe the problem is exorbitant cigarette taxes.

NEXT: Another Difference Between American Newspapers and British Newspapers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The New York Post is reporting that MasterCard is notifying vendors to deny charges for online cigarette sales unless they can verify that the merchant is levying the requisite taxes.

  2. They are only doing to hurt the Sovereign Native Americans.

  3. The states are merely rounding out their extortion rackets.

    They’ve perfected their extortion of the tobacco producers so now it’s time to catch up on extortion of the tobacco consumers.

    Al Capone would have been proud.

  4. Sure, it’s much better for smokers to look for bargains in the back of trucks parked in seedy alleys. Safer, too.

    Why does Prohibition only work as an example to prevent the banning of alcohol?

  5. Most citizens can currently buy wine online, so I’m sure that the next item on the hit list will be taxes on both the producer/shipper of the wine AND the consumer. It will be just the latest example of how government actors collude to bilk as much revenue as possible from private commercial transactions.

    Look for so-called “sin taxes” to increase dramatically. I’m surprised that more states and localities haven’t followed the lead of California and NYC in placing exorbitant levies on a pack of cigarettes.

  6. Nikos, I think many states are doing just that. Ohio is next in line, just working out the details…

  7. When I lived in Kentucky, I received a bill for sales tax on out of state purchases. I guess KY is good at estimating how much cash I spent in NH.

  8. The Constitution (Article I, Section 10, clause 2) forbids any state to tax imports from other states. All state “use taxes” are transparent attempts to evade this rule and are therefore illegal. I would refuse to pay and make them take me to court, and I suggest that all who receive these letters do the same.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.